Health Minister Popi Kanari on Wednesday urged the public to ensure they are up to date with all vaccines in light of the government’s updated vaccination programme.

Speaking on the occasion of European Vaccination Week, Kanari said the coronavirus pandemic “has undoubtedly highlighted the value of vaccination in combination with other public health measures, as a strong shield of citizen protection for the return to normality.”

The European Vaccination Week aims to educate the public on why vaccines are essential to the health of millions of people around the world and this year’s theme, The Big Catch-Up, is an opportunity to raise awareness of the urgent and critical need to vaccinate children, adolescents and adults who missed vaccine doses due to the pandemic.

It has three messages: that Every Dose Counts, that Time Matters and Have a Conversation about Vaccination.

“For the ministry of health to succeed in instilling vaccination as a key pillar of health policy, the proper observance of the National Vaccination Programme, as well as the timely and equal access of the population to it, should be a common goal with all stakeholders,” Kanari said.

Meanwhile, permanent secretary of the health ministry and president of the National Vaccination Committee Christina Yiannaki said that since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 1.2 million children in Europe have missed vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella.

Yiannaki said that in Cyprus, for the MMR vaccine in 2022 vaccinations reached 15,304, vaccinations for pneumococcus 16,000, for Hepatitis A 14,896 and for Chickenpox 14,000.

She added that in the school year 2019-2020, HPV vaccines were administered only to girls, by the health ministry, while in 2021 free administration began for boys as well, with the total number of vaccinations reaching 14,008.

For 200 years, she said vaccines have “prevented disease and saved countless lives”.

She estimated that for coronavirus half a million human lives were saved by the use of vaccines.

But she warned that “after three years of the pandemic, humanity has lost several years of progress in protecting children with routine vaccinations, a key pillar of primary health services”.