2.5 million children under the age of five get polio vaccine
Over 2.5 million children under the age of five years have been vaccinated against the Polio virus as Kenya concludes a week’s vaccination campaign.
The programme, which started on May 22 targeted children in Nairobi, Kiambu, Kitui, Machakos, Kajiado Mandera, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa, Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi and Mombasa counties which were labeled as high-risk areas.
Dr Charles Muitherero, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative said authorities are managing surveillance and epidemic response to prevent the spread of the disease.
“There are ongoing activities to detect the disease and act accordingly. The question of why children under five years have to undergo routine vaccinations has come up severally on this forum and I would like to emphasize that it is for the sole purpose of boosting the immunity and ensuring the protection of the child” said Dr Muitherero.
Speaking during the polio meeting hosted for stakeholders and media last week, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the five-day drive was necessitated by reports of polio virus cases that were detected earlier this year after surveillance teams confirmed six cases in Garissa and Mombasa counties.
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“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.”
Kenya has been free of any wild poliovirus circulation since 2014.
The country, however, continues to be at higher risk of polio due to low immunization coverage due to mobility of populations.
Polio is a highly infectious, debilitating disease which affects children and causes permanent paralysis. It is not curable, and the only prevention is by vaccination.
“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 two 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,” Mr Kagwe said.
The campaign is targeting over 3.4 million children with the second phase of vaccination scheduled for between June 19 and 23.