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Epidemiological Update: Diphtheria in Hispaniola - 23 April 2021

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In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) reiterates to Member States that vaccination and epidemiological surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases should be considered an essential health service that should not be interrupted. PAHO/WHO also reminds Member States that a single laboratory confirmed case of diphtheria should trigger a public health response.

Summary of the situation in the Americas

In 2021, between epidemiological week (EW) 1 and EW 15, two countries have reported confirmed cases of diphtheria: the Dominican Republic with 12 confirmed cases including 9 deaths, and Haiti with 11 confirmed cases including 2 deaths. Both countries are located on the island of Hispaniola.

In the Region of the Americas, between 1978 and 2019, the vaccination coverage with three and four doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine (DTP3 and DTP4) were each below 95%. The annual DTP3 coverage since 1978 has been less than 95%, with an average of 90% between 2010 and 2019 (range: 84%-94%). Meanwhile, data on DTP4 coverage has been available since 2006, and reached a maximum coverage of 86% in 2012. (Figure 1)