KAMPALA – Uganda on Friday, April 24 received 3,842,000 doses of bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) to support ongoing routine immunization services throughout the country.
The bivalent oral polio vaccines procured by UNICEF, with funding from the Government of Uganda, arrived at Entebbe International Airport via an Emirates Airline cargo flight.
The doses, which will last for six months, will be administered to about 900,000 children below the age of one year. A child receives three doses of Polio vaccines before they celebrate their first birthday.
810,500 doses of Pentavalent Vaccines also procured by UNICEF with funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, are expected to arrive at Entebbe on 28 April 2020. Pentavalent vaccine is a combination of five vaccines in one: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (the bacteria that causes meningitis, pneumonia and otitis) and will also be administered to children under the age of one.
Despite the challenges posed on the supply and delivery processes amidst COVID-19 related lockdowns, UNICEF is ensuring the delivery of strategic supplies for children to ensure uninterrupted immunization services.
The bivalent oral polio vaccines were received by Dr Alfred Driwale, UNEPI Programme Manager and Ms Noreen Prendiville, UNICEF Deputy Representative at Entebbe airport.
Dr. Driwale said that while there are ongoing difficulties resulting from COVID-19 pandemic, parents are encouraged to make sure that their children receive their routine immunization while following the Ministry of Health guidance on how to continue accessing health services and prevent themselves against COVID-19.
“We want to encourage parents and guardians to take their children for routine immunization at any nearby health centre. The vaccines are available, and the health workers are ready to immunize children,” Dr. Driwale said.
Prendiville said UNICEF is committed to continuing supporting the Government of Uganda to deliver the much-needed life-saving services including protecting Ugandan children from vaccine-preventable diseases especially during pandemics.
“As scientists work hard to accelerate vaccine development for COVID-19, we must also ensure children are protected against those diseases for which vaccines already exist, including Polio, Measles, Rubella and Tuberculosis. Immunization is one of the most effective public health interventions and is key to end vaccine-preventable child deaths and giving children a chance to grow up healthy and reach their full potential,” Prendiville said.
While receiving the vaccines, Mr Jimmy Ameny, the GAVI-MOH Procurement and Supply chain specialist said “while there are ongoing difficulties resulting from COVID-19 pandemic, parents are encouraged to make sure that their children receive their routine immunization”
The vaccines were cleared at the airport by the National Medical Stores (NMS) and transported to their warehouse in Entebbe. From the warehouse, NMS will distribute the vaccines to all districts in the country as they routinely do for all vaccines in the national immunization schedule.
In 2019, we have seen an increase in immunization services and close to 8 million children under 5 received a booster dose of bivalent oral polio vaccine to reduce the risk of polio importation from neighbouring countries.
Uganda had its last Polio case in 2010 and UNICEF and partners stand committed to support the government in maintaining a Polio-free Uganda.