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Tanzania rolls out polio jab campaign

Tanzania rolls out polio jab campaign

THE Ministry of Health yesterday launched the second round of wild polio vaccinations with the goal of reaching 10,576,805 children under the age of five.

The supplemental mass immunization campaign will take place in all 195 districts effective May 18 to 21, 2022 countrywide.

“Polio vaccination program is critical for Tanzania in ensuring that all eligible children receive polio vaccinations… we are grateful to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and donors for funding this critical activity, which is critical to keeping Tanzania polio-free,” said Dr Zabulon Yoti, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Tanzania.

WHO in Tanzania is providing technical support and coordination for the vaccination campaigns in collaboration with UNICEF and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The first round of the campaign from 24 to 27 March reached over 1 million children in four regions bordering Malawi, namely Mbeya, Njombe, Ruvuma and Songwe.

Tanzania was certified as poliofree in 2015, after years without a new polio case, despite a sensitive polio surveillance system. “Immunizing every child is the most effective way to guard against a polio outbreak.

Due to its sustained high coverage of oral polio vaccines, Tanzania has not detected a polio case since 1996,” said Dr Yoti Malawi declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus on 17 February after a case was detected in a young child.

It was also Africa’s first case since the region was certified free of indigenous wild poliovirus in 2020.

Africa’s certification as wild polio-free remains unchanged. Following the outbreak, Malawi’s neighbours have launched mass vaccination drives to protect millions of children from the virus.

Apart from supporting the vaccination campaign, WHO also expanded its support in polio eradication by extending environmental surveillance of polio. Prior to this expansion environmental surveillance for polio in Tanzania, it was being conducted in four sites in Dar es Salaam and now nine new potential areas have been validated by experts and are ready reached.

The surveillance drive in Tanzania is part of Africa’s continent wide environmental surveillance that was initially planned to be implemented in 46 countries under the auspices of the Global Polio Eradication Programme.

After the case in Malawi, the continental surveillance initiative has been expanded to more sites in all countries.

The expanded surveillance is set to begin immediately. Immunization and surveillance officers will collaborate with the authorities to identify suitable sample collection sites in the sewerage systems.

Spread through contact with infected faecal matter, polio causes sudden permanent paralysis to about half per cent of people that get infected.

Environmental surveillance involves investigating poliovirus in fluids collected from sewage flows at specified sites.

Environmental surveillance complements acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance—conducted by collecting stool samples and is one of the four strategies of eradicating polio, the others being vaccination campaign, routine vaccination and mop up vaccination that takes place after detection of a polio case.

Surveillance helps tell where the poliovirus is circulating and who is being affected.

Polio is a highly infectious disease that causes paralysis and has no cure. Poliovirus continues to cause outbreaks in communities around the world, where there are large pockets of unvaccinated children.

The world aims at total eradication of the disease because if polio exists anywhere in the world, all children are at risk from polio.

WHO has been instrumental in helping countries put in place robust surveillance systems that can detect the poliovirus before it widely spreads.

In 2019, for instance, WHO, thanks to funding from the United States Agency for International Development, trained the sample collectors and helped organize sample transportation and testing.

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Author: DAILY NEWS Reporter

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