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Cuba’s 56th Polio Vaccination Campaign Under Way

Cuba’s 56th Polio Vaccination Campaign Under Way

Havana, February 17, 2017 – Cuba’s annual polio vaccination campaign, designed to protect Cuban children against the once-crippling disease, is under way for the 56th time since its launch in 1962. Like all health services, the vaccine is provided free of charge and has resulted in 99.5% protection coverage in Cuba—the first Latin American country declared polio-free, in 1962. The Ministry of Public Health, in coordination with the national Program for Maternal-Child Health (PAMI) and the National Immunization Program, guarantees vaccinations against 13 childhood diseases, which together with other vaccination programs, have eliminated 14 infectious diseases since 1961. Today, less than 1% of deaths in Cuba are due to infectious diseases.

Vaccine schedules for every child are maintained by local family doctor-and-nurse teams—in offices known as a ‘consultorios,’ each responsible for a geographic catchment area of some 300 families (1500 people)—and the vaccine is administered in over 400 multispecialty clinics known as polyclinics, located in every community across the country. After receiving the first injectable vaccine at 10 months old, children under 3 receive the oral vaccine, complemented by another oral vaccine at 9 years old.  The first stage of the 2017 campaign (February 20–26), will administer the vaccine to 363,778 children under 3 years old; during the second stage (April 17–23), 108,110 children aged 9 will receive their booster vaccine. Since 1962, nearly 84 million polio vaccines have been administered in Cuba.

The island nation is one of the few countries that still carry out an annual vaccination drive, making Cuba ideal for testing low-dose variants of vaccines already available. The results of Cuban studies, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases (most recently in January 2017), Vaccine and The New England Journal of Medicine, may have important implications for reducing the price of immunization worldwide…and thus, finally eradicating polio.