BY NAMULONGO PETER,NAIROBI,21ST,MAY,2021-The Ministry of Health has Friday launched the polio vaccination drive targeting 13 high risk counties, an exercise that will kick off tomorrow (Saturday) and continue for the next five days.
The latest initiative is a rapid intervention to improve population immunity especially in most at risk regions.
The ministry plans to conduct the current campaign in Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kitui, Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu, Tana River, Lamu and Nairobi counties from 22nd to 26th May 2021.
The first phase of the vaccination exercise will target an estimated 3,437,378 children under five years with the monovalent oral polio vaccine (mOPV).
According to a speech by the Ministry of Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the five day drive has been necessitated by reports of polio virus cases that were detected earlier this year.
“So far, three cases have been identified from children and three from sewage samples. All the children were new entrants into Garissa County from Somalia. One of the sewage samples was collected from the Bouralgy site in Garissa town,” said CS Kagwe.
Adding that, “All samples detected to date are genetically linked to the cVDPV2 sequence for viruses isolated in Somalia. “
While acknowledging the threats diseases pose to humankind with the COVID-19 pandemic a testament to this danger, Kagwe noted that children aged below 5 years are particularly vulnerable to diseases with their immunity not yet fully developed to fight most infections.
“Polio, an infectious disease caused by the polio virus, remains one of the most serious diseases,” warned Kagwe.
Noting that: “Not only does it cause paralysis and permanent disability, but it can also kill as it affects the muscles that aid in breathing. For example, during the 2013 polio outbreak in Garissa County, 14 people were paralyzed by the disease. Another 2 died following complications arising from the disease. It is worth noting that no cases of children with polio paralysis have yet been detected in the 13 counties, but we fear that, without swift action, it will only be a matter of time before this happens.”
Though the World Health Organization (WHO) had certified the Africa Region polio free in 2020, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and weaknesses in routine immunization in our neighboring countries have led to a resurgence of polio outbreaks.
The Ministry of Health, deployed a multi-agency team, comprising of National and county governments as well as partners to investigate the outbreak in the quest to defeat the enemy that is polio upon receiving reports of circulation of the virus.
Additionally, the ministry has since intensified surveillance across all regions with more emphasis on frontier counties located along the Kenya-Somalia and Kenya-Ethiopia common borders. This is besides the scaling up of routine immunization activities across the country.
To actualize these efforts, the Ministry of Health has activated the National Public Health Emergency Operations Center.
Further, the Ministry of Health is working in coordination with critical partners in this response.
During the last polio campaign, conducted in November 2019 targeting 11 high risk counties, 2, 724,956 children against a target of 2,636,037 were vaccinated, a success rate of 103%.