‘Full participation needed in polio vaccination campaign’
Published On August 18, 2022 » 637 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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By PASSY HAACHIZO-
GOVERNMENT through the Ministry of Health, and its cooperating partners, is conducting round three of children vaccination against poliomyelitis (polio), a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under five years.
The Government is using the oral polio vaccines (OPV) currently being administered together with Vitamin A.
Polio is a virus that travels through contaminated water or food. The virus multiplies in the intestines before invading the nervous system to cause paralysis.
The virus is transmitted from person to person mainly through the faecal-oral route.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 18 million people are able to walk today who would otherwise have been paralysed since 1988 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched.
The programme was spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF, which were later joined by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
In 2022, in the month of February, a case of polio was detected in Malawi.
This made Zambia to embark on the distribution of oral polio vaccines to children under the age of five years in March, which exercise was also replicated in April.
During the campaign, not less than 4.5 million of OPVs were administered to eligible children.
This month, from August 11 to 14, another campaign was launched. The programme in Central Province, brought together health workers and a number of stakeholders such as the media, in rising awareness amng members of the public on the need for parents to have their children vaccinated against polio.
During a presentation made virtually last Wednesday, Central Province health team officer Mercy Chisi said children under the age of five, whether they had been previously vaccinated in the first round in March and second round in April, were still a target group in the third round to increase their protection.
Ms Chisi said the health workers were expected to visit households in a door-to-door campaign to ensure those that did not have the means to take their children to the health facilities, bus stations, markets and selected areas where the campaign was taking place were also accorded the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
“Specific objectives are to provide comprehensive information on the organisation of the national polio immunisation campaign round three, share key messages about polio immunisation and engage line ministries, media and religious leaders and other partners of the Ministry of Health in concrete and effective actions to sensitise parents on the importance of polio vaccination campaigns,” Ms Chisi said.
A check at Katondo Clinic in Kabwe by the Times of Zambia revealed that children were being given both the polio vaccine and Vitamin A.
Katondo maternal and child health nurse Andress Kalota said the response from the community was overwhelming.
She said there was no resistance from people as every household reached was willing to have their children immunised for polio and also to receive Vitamin A.
Ms Kalota said on the first day, 1,002 children received the vaccines for polio and Vitamin A and that most of them were mostly vaccinated from their homes.
“So far the programme is going on well. Vitamin A and polio vaccination is going on well and there is no resistance among the
community members because we sensitise them and they are aware that this programme is taking place is for polio and Vitamin A and the response is overwhelming. Yesterday, we had 1,002 vaccinated against polio and the team members did not report any challenge,” Ms Kalota said.
Parity Haangoma, a mother who had her child vaccinated at Katondo Clinic said she took the child to the clinic because of the information that some countries had polio and as such, she needed to have her child protected through immunisation.
“It is important that all the parents bring their children here to receive the polio vaccine because this is not a new disease but an old one. The health personnel usually pass in our homes teaching us to be consistent in bringing our children to health institutions for immunisation,” Ms Haangoma said.
The Ministry of Health in Central Province, working with support from the Government and its cooperating partners embarked on the door-to-door vaccination against polio and providing Vitamin A to children up to the age of five years.
Central Province health specialist Isaac Banda said in an interview that the campaign was flagged off last Thursday.
He said health teams would also visit markets to provide the polio vaccine and the Vitamin A immunisation.
Dr Banda said health institutions, churches and households were earmarked for accessing the information and the actual prevention of polio, especially during the campaign period.
He said since Malawi detected a case of polio, after which Mozambique followed, it was a sign on the need for Zambians, especially on the borders, not to miss the chance to safeguard the children who were vulnerable to polio.
“We are integrating the polio vaccination with Vitamin A as activities that we are doing as Central Province now because during Child Health Week, we did not do Vitamin A and in terms of access, yes these services for polio vaccinations and Vitamin A can be accessed from health facilities and the markets, and our community agents are going round in households to ensure that no one misses out,” Dr Banda said.
He urged the public to embrace the habit of washing their hands, vegetables and fruits with clean water before consumption and after using a toilet.
“It also important to avoid open defecation where one goes into the bush to relieve oneself and when preparing vegetables, one’s hands must be washed thoroughly,” he said.
Nkandu Mukesa, a mother of Kabwe’s Mukobeko Township, said the polio vaccination programme was a chance that the parents did not have to miss.
She said all parents have to ensure their children are taken for full vaccination as per guidance from health experts.
Reuben Kayoba, an education activist who is also a Nkrumah University post graduate student pursuing Teaching Methodology, said the fight against polio has been formidable in Zambia since the 1990s.
Mr Kayoba urged parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated by taking them to the nearest health facility for vaccination.
He implored learning institutions at all levels find a way of providing information about diseases like polio in a bid to ensure that the message travels fast to all the communities for the safety and health of children.
“We want to ask the parents to take advantage of this period to have their children vaccinated against polio. The parents need to know that the health of a child has an impact on the child’s performance and it is important that these issues are discussed in the curriculum for colleges and universities too,” Mr Kayoba said.
WHO indicates that polio mainly affects children under five years of which one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis.
Community members must understand that the formula for polio eradication works well when there is full participation as demonstrated by health workers in Central Province.
It is imperative that all the provinces follow suit and organise health teams and available resources to safeguard the lives of children on whom both development and the future rest.

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