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Haiti's New Initiative to Vaccinate Children Aims High

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Because approximately 5.5 percent of Miami's population is Haitian, Miami-Dade County has a close relationship with the Haitian community. Haiti has the sad ranking of having more children die before they reach five years old than anywhere else in the Americas. One reason for this is the pervasive lack of childhood immunizations.

Haiti is trying to remedy this situation with a campaign to immunize as many children as possible. Focusing on vaccinations against measles, rubella, and polio, the Haiti effort coincides with a global effort to desseminate information on vaccines--the World Health Organization's Immunization Week.

Fewer than 60 percent of the children in Haiti have full vaccination protection. Haiti's minister of health is hoping to increase the percentage of vaccinated children to 90 percent. Her focus is to make sure that children under five receive vaccinations against polio and measles.

Recently, Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, visited Haiti. She toured the Germain Hospital in Port-au-Prince. She applauds the effort that Haiti is making in the area of vaccinations and commented when she later toured Miami's Borinquen Health Center, "It's important to make sure that children have these immunities going forward." Borinquen, a federally-funded facility, provides medical services to the community, and 40 percent of its patients are Haitian.

Haiti's vaccine campaign will begin next month. The cost of the vaccine is about $9 for each child. Haiti is receiving the vaccine through the GAVI Alliance. The public-private health initiative has earmarked $2.15 million towards this program.