The Ministry of Health and Wellness on Tuesday received a donation of cold chain equipment and infrastructure from UNICEF Belize to support the delivery of quality and adequate healthcare to children and families in Belize. Health and Wellness Minister Kevin Bernard says this equipment is critical to the storage, management and transportation of vaccines, which depend on a series of precisely coordinated events in temperature-controlled environments.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “The Government of Belize is committed to eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases in Belize. Each year the 100% of the biologicals and supplies required to vaccinate the target population is purchased with fiscal funds. The Government of Belize also supports the extension of vaccination services to children and adults living in hard-to-reach communities through the mobile clinics. 2022 marks 41 since the last case of Polio was diagnosed in Belize. The last case of Measles was in 1991. The last case of Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome in 1996. And the last case of Neonatal Tetanus was diagnosed in 1997. I take this opportunity to give thanks to the healthcare workers who every day continue to vaccinate the population. The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative effect on the vaccination coverage in children. We went from 95% coverage in 2019 to 65% in the year 2020. The vaccination coverage is increasing but more work is required to reach the minimum of 95% vaccination coverage. The yearly investment in vaccines and supplies is approximately $1 million Belize dollars per year. Vaccines are critical community that requires strict temperature control from the manufacturing company up to when the vaccine is administered to an individual.”
The donation included a vehicle for vaccine transportation, a container retrofitted for storing vaccine cold boxes and vaccine carriers, two AC units, compound paving and fencing, shelves and tables for the vaccine equipment storage,100 vaccine cold boxes and specialized refrigerators for vaccine storage. UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Jean Gough, explains the significance of this donation.
Jean Gough, Regional UNICEF Regional Director: “COVID had taught us in the region that given the investments made in primary healthcare over the years I think even UNICEF said the work is done but the pandemic showed us that there is still room for improvement in strengthening the systems and more investments are required to keep the cold chain safe, to make sure that the vaccines are safe so for us and we are doing this in many of the countries in the region we saw through the COVID that we needed to go back to primary healthcare and make sure that primary healthcare keeps at the center of the work that UNICEF does in this region. So to be here today is the real pleasure for me because I’m seeing equipment, I will be able to then guarantee and the ministry will be able to guarantee that the vaccine that we give to each of those little kids that come for a vaccine is of the quality that is required. So for us it’s about quality.”