The Daily Herald reports that Health care officials from throughout the Dutch Kingdom met last week to update each other on the status and implementation of their respective vaccine programmes. The meeting, which was organized under the auspices of the Saba Health Care Foundation and the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and Environment (RIVM), was part of an annual programme. Officials who are engaged in the management of Public Health Programmes use the opportunity to review and exchange ideas and to learn about new vaccines that will be introduced into the vaccine programme.
Organizer of this year’s event, Dr. Gina Boorsma, who is responsible for Youth Care on Saba, described the meeting as a “platform to link plans and activities for more efficient and effective programme management and to decide on arrangements to guarantee uniformity in programmes. The meeting helps us to establish agreements on formal collaboration on Youth Health Care matters between the Dutch Caribbean and the Netherlands.” Dr. Boorsma said that during the meeting topics such as vaccine coverage, registration and challenges of the logistics of vaccine delivery had been discussed. She also mentioned that one particular area of interest was the implementation of the vaccine against cervical cancer.
During the meeting the introduction of a new screening test for newborns was discussed. This new test, called the heel prick test, will be introduced on Bonaire in 2014 and on Saba and St. Eustatius in 2014- 2015. This test, which involves taking a sample of blood from the heel of a newborn within 48 to 72 hours after birth, analyses as much as 18 different types of conditions. These genetic conditions lead to disability if not treated in time, but with the heel prick test they can be detected much earlier and treated in time, allowing the child to live a full and normal life. Since it is the first time these tests will be done in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, cooperation between the islands is necessary, because mothers from Saba and St. Eustatius are transported to St. Maarten to have their babies and it is important the procedures are in place to ensure that testing can be carried out there if the need arises.
Dr. Boorsma described the meeting as “informative and inspiring. “The participants were able to share their challenges with the group, which allowed the group to identify solutions jointly. New developments, plans and best practices were discussed, so the public health managers could return home with new ideas applicable to their unique situation. Also the planning and the development for the introduction of the heel prick test will continue with the regular exchange of ideas.”