Jamaica Gleaner - - FINANCIAL GLEANER -

We take the time this World Sickle Cell Aware­ness Day to stand in sup­port of per­sons liv­ing with Sickle Cell Dis­ease (SCD) and to com­mit, as a Min­istry of Health & Well­ness, to con­tinue to do all that we can to re­duce their vul­ner­a­bil­ity, es­pe­cially in a time of COVID-19. One in ev­ery 150 ba­bies is born with SCDand one in ev­ery 10 per­sons has the sickle cell trait. SCD can cause low blood count; yel­low­ing of the eyes and skin; pain in the arms, legs, chest and joints; dis­ten­sion of the ab­domen due to en­large­ment of the spleen and/or liver; as well as strokes. There is also an in­creased risk of com­pli­ca­tions dur­ing preg­nancy and de­liv­ery, but the high­est risk of death oc­curs in the first six months of life. Against this back­ground, the Min­istry pro­vides screen­ing to all preg­nant women and new­born ba­bies while mem­bers of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion are tested as ap­pro­pri­ate. In 2019, ap­prox­i­mately 28,655 in­fants were screened at birth and those found pos­i­tive for SCD were as­signed to health care fa­cil­i­ties for man­age­ment. To pro­tect per­sons liv­ing with SCD from se­vere in­fec­tion, the Min­istry of­fers four (4) doses of the pneu­mo­coc­cal vac­cine for in­fants and young chil­dren and a fur­ther booster dose of Hae­mophilius In­fluenza Type B. This year, the Min­istry, for the first time, will of­fer the Pneu­mo­coc­cal 23 vac­cine free of cost for older chil­dren and adults. This vac­cine is given to chil­dren at four years and com­pletes the child­hood pro­tec­tion against pneu­mo­nia, menin­gi­tis and in­fec­tions of the blood. Given the re­al­ity of COVID-19, which has in­fected more than 8 mil­lion peo­ple and claimed the lives of more than 440,000 glob­ally, it is crit­i­cal that Ja­maicans liv­ing with SCD make the ef­fort to safe­guard their health. That ef­fort is about­prac­tic­ing the re­quired in­fec­tion pre­ven­tion and con­trol mea­sures to re­duce the risk of con­tract­ing the virus. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant, given the­high risk for com­pli­ca­tions, should they con­tract the dis­ease. Per­sons with SCD should­main­tain the pre­scribed six-feet dis­tance from oth­ers; wash or sani­tise hands reg­u­larly and avoid gath­er­ings, in­clud­ing with friends and/or­fam­ily in pri­vate spa­ces or at events. Ad­her­ence to pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion, moder­ate ex­er­cise, and a healthy diet are also rec­om­mended, even as they main­tain con­tact with their health care provider to sched­ule and keep ap­point­ments. Ex­pec­tant par­entsare urged to find out their sickle cell sta­tus and that of their in­fants at birth. As mem­bers of their com­mu­ni­ties, we need do our part to sup­port per­sons liv­ing with SCD. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant as we pur­sue all ef­forts to con­tain the spread of COVID-19, the suc­cess of which will depend on our ef­fec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion and sus­tained vig­i­lance. Dr. the Hon. Christo­pher Tufton, MP Min­is­ter of Health and Well­ness

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