KAMPALA – As part of Ministry of Health (MoH) continued efforts to improve child health, the Government of Uganda will hold a National House-to-House Polio Immunization Campaign for children under five (5) years of age.
This will be conducted in two rounds; the first round will commence on Friday 14th- Sunday 16th January and the second round will be communicated.
Polio is transmitted by person-to-person mainly through the faecal-oral route but also spreads through contaminated water or food. The polio-virus can cause paralysis and sometimes death. Children with polio are likely to present with fever, pain in the limbs, stiffness in the neck, and others.
Through immunization, under-fives (who are at high risk), can be protected from infection.
Polio Outbreak in Uganda.
On 25 August 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) certified Africa free of the wild Poliovirus. Unfortunately, a new strain of Polio that affects children in communities with low immunity levels has been reported across Africa.
This had spread to 17 African countries including the DRC South Sudan, and Kenya, all sharing borders with Uganda.
In July 2021, Uganda confirmed the poliovirus outbreak from samples that were collected in June 2021 from the sewage plants of Bugolobi and Lubigi in Kampala.
The results confirmed a circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus Type 2 (cVDPV2). The porous the borders, disruptions in routine immunization by COVID-19, poor access to safe water, and others have been identified as the drivers of the outbreak.
Due to competing priorities, the planned vaccination exercise, which had to be kick-started in November this year was postponed.
“The ministry of health has been under instruction by the Head of State to ensure that older persons are protected against COVID-19 before school reopening and we couldn’t achieve this target early enough until we got enough vaccines to do so,” Alfred Driwale the Program Manager of the Uganda National Expanded Program on Immunization (UNEPI) said on Thursday.
How the house-to-house strategy will be done
The government, in October, received a total of 10,997,500 polio vaccines from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and partners.
Explaining the design of the campaign, Dr. Driwale noted that they’ll be moving house-to-house, in strict observance of the COVID-19 guidelines to accelerate the uptake of the vaccines.
In each of the villages in the country, there will be a team.
“We have got 71,000 villages and so we’ll have 71,000 teams. They’ll go house to house for three days and in that way, we’ll be able to reach all children below 5 years.
Each of those 71,000 teams will have three members, the LC1 (or Village Health Team members), the one dropping the vaccine in the mouth of the children, and the other one keeping records,” he explained.
It’s expected that in the three days, (for the 1st round), the teams will go to the markets, schools and in every home. However, unlike for Kampala, which is highly populated, most of the areas can be covered in two days, according to Dr. Robert Mayanja, who supports immunization programs under the WHO.
Upon administration of the two (2) drops of the vaccine, children will be marked with an ink pen on the left finger.
Effectiveness of Vaccines.
Generally, the polio vaccine offers life-long protection if the immunization schedule has been completed. However, through routine immunization campaigns, the protection can be strengthened.
Driwale explained that the novel Oral Polio Vaccine (nOPV2) is an improved version of the existing type 2monovalent OPV (mOPV2). Through a series of clinical trials, scientists established that this particular vaccine (n0PV2), which will be used, provides improved protection against type 2 Poliovirus while being more genetically stable and less likely to revert to a form that can cause paralysis.
“And once we use it countrywide, we will have provided immunity to all our children,” he reassured Ugandans.
The media has been encouraged to disseminate correct and accurate information to the public about the upcoming campaign, sensitize communities on the benefits of polio immunization and demystify rumors, misconceptions, and myths about the polio vaccine among others.