Zambia launches polio immunisation campaign targeting more than 478, 500 children following an outbreak in the northern part of the country

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Zambia has launched a polio immunisation campaign after confirming a case involving a 2 years 8-month old male child in Chienge district in the northern part of the country. The affected child has paralysis of the lower limbs and had no history of receiving polio vaccinations. According to the Ministry of Health, this outbreak was caused by Vaccine Derived Polio Virus Type 2 (VDPV2). The detection of the case and two polio positive healthy contacts confirmed the spreading of the virus and therefore necessitated the polio campaign. The country sustained polio free status from 2005 until the recent case in Chienge.

The polio campaign is targeting children under the age of 5 years and will be implemented in three rounds with each one over a period of seven days. The targeted districts are Chienge and Nchelenge in Luapula province and Kaputa and Nsama in the Northern Province. The 0 round of the response is ongoing from the 6 to 12 November 2019 in Chienge, Nchelenge, Kaputa and Nsama districts targeting 141,312 children using mOPV2. Round 1 is planned for 26 November to 2 December 2019 and Round 2 from 17 to 23 December 2019 covering 11 districts targeting 337,215 children for each round. The polio campaign in the subsequent two rounds will be extended to additional seven districts in Luapula province.

In his remarks to mark the launch of the campaign which was held in Chienge district, the Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya assured the public that the government's quest was to provide universal health coverage and that it was committed to ensuring that resources were available for all vaccines including polio. " No child should be crippled by polio. I am therefore encouraging all the parents to allow their children to be vaccinated during this door-to-door campaign”. He said.

The WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita emphasised the importance of sensitising the public about preventing polio in order to stop the spread of the disease. “Information sharing with all community members is key to let them know that the vaccination is underway and that they should all participate and all children receive two drops of oral polio vaccine from the vaccinators that will visit the households”.

The UNICEF Representative, Noala Skinner called upon government officials, traditional leaders and religious authorities, parents and care givers to join the global effort to end polio. “Please be champions in your communities for this polio campaign. Once a child has polio, there is no cure, so we need to protect our children. Children under five are particularly at risk”. She said.

The polio campaign is being implemented through a house- house strategy and targets to reach at least 95% of all eligible children to improve population immunity. The World Health Organisation has provided financial and technical support to the Ministry of Health throughout the process of detection, detailed investigation of case, laboratory expertise in confirmation, conducting of risk assessment, facilitating approval and access of vaccines for the response SIA, planning, training, monitoring of response activities in accordance with Standard Operating Procedures.

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