South Sudan

Polio vaccination targets over 2.8 million children in S. Sudan

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February 25, 2021 (JUBA) -- The Ministry of Health and partners are rolling-out the second round of the national polio vaccination campaign targeting over 2.8 million children in South Sudan.

The campaign, the ministry said, started on 16 February and covers 74 counties, with vaccinators going from house to house to vaccinate children, while adhering to the coronavirus protocols.

The polio outbreak was declared on 18 September 2020 and spread to 17 counties in all the states of the world's youngest nation.

Currently, 39 cases of vaccine-derived poliomyelitis are confirmed with Warrap and Western Bahr El Ghazal states the most affected.

"With support from the Global Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners, the country is conducting the second round of nationwide Monovalent Oral Poliovirus Type 2 (mOPV2) campaign not only to stop the outbreak but also to ensure the country remains polio-free while improving the routine immunization coverage", said Dr. Atem Nathan, the Director General for Primary Health Care at the Health ministry.

"I am encouraging all caregivers to allow their children to be vaccinated by the house-to-house teams," he added.

To prevent outbreak and prevent further spread of polio, the Health ministry, World Health Organisation, UNICEF and partners are enhancing surveillance with emphasis placed on both community and health facility case search for children that may have developed sudden paralysis of the limbs, along with strengthening investigation and timely transportation of samples to the laboratory.

"The campaign provides an opportunity for the vulnerable children to receive critical interventions that can avert life-threatening disease such as disability from poliomyelitis," Dr. Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative for South Sudan said in a statement issued Thursday.

The young nation is also intensifying the dissemination of messages using diverse channels such as community influencers, radio talk shows, household and focused group meetings, megaphone announcements along with the use of posters demonstrating the importance of vaccination.

"To turn this vaccination campaign into a success, we need to ensure that parents are fully aware of the importance of the vaccination and ask for their children to get the vaccine. Therefore, communication activities are critical," said Andrea Suley, the UNICEF South Sudan Representative.

Meanwhile, in response to the current outbreak of polio, the East African country reportedly conducted the first round of the mOPV2 campaign in two phases in 2020 reaching 1.5 million children aged 0 -- 59 months in November 2020 and 1.1 million in December 2020.