World Immunisation Week highlights the signal importance of vaccines to the health and wellbeing of the entire global community. The 2022 theme, “Long Life for All” underscores the role of vaccines in enabling people to overcome preventable diseases and lead longer, healthier lives.

From the invention of the smallpox vaccine in 1796 to the more recent Covid-19 jab, vaccines have been saving lives for centuries. They work with the body’s natural defences to build protection against deadly and debilitating diseases and, according to the World Health Organisation, currently prevent 3.5 to 5 million deaths every year from illnesses such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles. Vaccination drives during the 20th and 21st centuries have dramatically reduced and controlled infectious disease outbreaks, eradicated the once fearsome and deadly smallpox, driven polio to the brink of extinction and helped ensure a brighter, healthier future for all.

These essential immunisation programmes were dealt a severe blow by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. For the first time in a decade, vaccination coverage declined, with approximately twenty-three million children missing out on vaccinations against measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea, stalling and possibly reversing years of progress. The disruption to health systems and everyday life only eased following the development and rollout of Covid-19 vaccines which, although hampered by misconceptions and misinformation, have allowed the world to resume the business of life after two years of disruption and uncertainty.

While we have formerly been largely compliant with vaccination programmes, Trinidad and Tobago still has some ways to go in respect of the Covid-19 vaccination, as only 50.8% of our population is fully vaccinated as of April 24, 2022. We have witnessed the misery, loss and destruction caused by Covid-19 as well as experienced the relief and return to semi-normalcy brought about by vaccines.

Let us heed the advice of our health authorities and take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of serious illness and death. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Get vaccinated today!