by Linda Straker
- Public Health (School Children Immunisation) Act approved by PRG
- Act requires immunisation of children under 13 years of age against communicable diseases
- Rate of child vaccination has fallen by more than 30%
Former health minister Clarice Modeste said that the percentage of children in Grenada receiving childhood vaccines had fallen significantly. She urges all parents to ensure that children become vaccinated against childhood diseases.
“I have learned from the Ministry of Health that the childhood vaccination rate has decreased at an appalling rate,” Modeste told the Parliament during its regular sitting on 10 May 2022. She said that the routine vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella are no longer a priority for parents.
She told members of the Lower House that parents have forgotten the many health benefits of vaccinating children. “We have forgotten seeing our children suffering from these things, but the reality is, if we do not pick up and pick up soon, these things — instead of Covid-19 — could become the order of the day …all of these things that we had completely eradicated,” she said.
“I have not heard of any outbreak in a very, very encouragingly long time, and therefore, as we deal with Covid-19 and as we work together and take responsibility, we must also take responsibility for the childhood vaccines that have been tried, have been tested, that have been proven effective and that have saved the lives of our children and save them from suffering,” she recommended.
Current Health Minister Nickolas Steele confirmed that the rate of child vaccination has fallen by more than 30%. “We moved from having childhood vaccination rates in the 90s, as high as 98%, to recently showing we are in the 60s. We had some challenges during the first year of Covid-19, but now we are stocked,” he said.
Steele said that the reduction did not start with Covid-19, but sometime before the pandemic because of misinformation spread via the internet.
Grenada’s Public Health (School Children Immunisation) Act requires the immunisation of all school children under 13 years of age against communicable diseases. The diseases named in the legislation are Diphtheria; Pertussis (Whooping cough); Tetanus; Measles; Poliomyelitis. However, the law provides for the Minister of Health to include or remove diseases.
The law also states that “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, but subject to the provisions of this Act, no child shall be admitted as a pupil to a pre-primary school, primary school, private school or all-age school unless he or she produces to the principal thereof a certificate of immunization with respect to every communicable disease.”
The exceptions are medical grounds and religious grounds. When a parent objects to the immunisation of a child, that parent shall state the grounds of his or her objection in writing and give or send it to the principal of the school to which he or she seeks the admission of the child, and the principal shall forward the objection to the minister responsible for education.
“The Minister responsible for education shall consider the objection and decide whether or not the child shall be exempted from immunization, and the decision of the Minister shall be final,” said the legislation which was approved in 1980, during the period of the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).