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EPI Newsl. 1997 Aug;19(4):1-3.

Twenty years of EPI.

[No authors listed]



The Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) in the Americas was established at the 25th Meeting of the Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization in September 1977. At that time, vaccine technology was available, but there were few formal immunization programs in the countries of the Americas reaching infants and children to prevent diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, tuberculosis, measles, and poliomyelitis. There was no routine surveillance for these diseases, and countries failed to record or report coverage levels. Support from the international community was either lacking or was not specifically directed to disease control programs. Moreover, the priorities of most multilateral and bilateral agencies were not coordinated either among themselves or with those of the governments in the region. Private or nongovernmental organizations had limited involvement in vaccine-preventable disease programs. The EPI initiative sought to reduce morbidity and mortality due to common vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, by developing and expanding permanent immunization services within primary health care. Immunization coverage for children under age 1 year for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, tuberculosis, measles, and poliomyelitis has reached levels above 80%, far higher than the 25-30% levels in 1977. The early years of EPI and the drive to eradicate measles in the Americas are described.

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