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Over 6,500 children to receive polio vaccine

September 30, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO), will on Friday, 2 October commence a four-day polio vaccination of over 6,500 children across the country, according to Dr. Denis Marke, Pogramme Manager of Child Health and Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI).

Speaking at a presser yesterday at the ministry’s Youyi building conference room, Dr. Marke said the inoculation drive is the fourth round of the EPI revitalisation plan scheduled for this year. He revealed that the national coverage for all vaccines dropped as a result of the Ebola virus disease outbreak last year due to the under-utilisation of health facilities for fear of contracting Ebola.

He said this latest inoculation drive aims to achieve the oral polio vaccine and birth registration coverage to at least 95% of the target population.

He said about 75% of children susceptible to polio show no symptoms, yet they can still spread the virus to others, while 24% of infected susceptible persons have minor symptoms such as fever, sore throat, headache, vomiting, fatigue, back pain, or stiffness.

He said about 1-5% develop aseptic meningitis with stiffness of the back or legs and in some persons increased or abnormal sensation a few days after the minor illness resolves.

“Polio infection is mostly unseen because only 0.5% of the patients die when the respiration muscles are paralysis,” he said, adding that there has been low routine vaccination coverage since 2014 because of the Ebola outbreak, which has increased the number of children susceptible to polio.

He said the outbreak also decreased vaccination with many children under 24 months likely to have missed one or more routine vaccine doses.

Dr. Marke said polio is caused by one of three types of poliovirus, and that 95% of all polio cases show no symptoms at all, known as asymptomatic cases. “The rest of polio cases can be divided into three types: abortive polio, non-paralytic polio, and paralytic polio,” he said and called on parents to come forward with their children for the vaccination, which will run from Friday, 2 October to Monday, 5 October.

He said the last case of wild poliovirus in the country was confirmed in 1999, but Sierra Leone was subsequently granted provisional polio-free status in 2007, although 11 cases of wild poliovirus Type 1 were confirmed in 2009 and one case in 2010.

“Thus, this provisional polio-free status will be reversed if the transmission of wild poliovirus is not interrupted, as a country can only be certified polio free when it has been polio free for 3-5 years with good acute flaccid paralysis surveillance indicators,” he said.

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle, for example contaminated water or food, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

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