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Health Ministry enhances efforts to curb the spread of Polio

The government has ramped up efforts to curb the spread of polio in the country, where some cases have been reported in the North Eastern region.

Public Health and Professional Standards Principal Secretary (PS), Ms. Mary Muriuki, said that they have put in place all the necessary measures to ensure a smooth polio vaccination campaign that is planned to start from Saturday, October 7, to Wednesday, October 11, 2023.

Speaking in Nairobi on Thursday during a media and stakeholders meeting on the upcoming vaccination campaign, the PS said that this is the second of the three planned vaccination rounds following polio outbreak confirmation in Garissa County in June this year.

“Recently, I reported that we had confirmed six cases and that we were going to conduct an emergency polio vaccination campaign in four counties. Sadly, there are clear indications that transmission of the virus is still active in Garissa County, especially within the refugee camps,” explained Ms. Muriuki.

She highlighted that their surveillance system has detected an additional two polio cases, bringing the total number to eight.

“The Ministry, in collaboration with county governments and partners, successfully undertook Round One of polio campaigns from August 24th to August 28th, 2023, in four counties, namely Kiambu, Kajiado, Garissa, and Nairobi, where a total of 1,960,748 children under five years were vaccinated out of a target of 1,879,402 children,” said Ms. Muriuki.

She said that this translates to 104.2% coverage, as she appreciated all parents, guardians, religious leaders, the media, partners, and all members of the public for supporting this noble course.

“The upcoming round will target 10 high-risk counties, namely Mandera, Wajir, Tana River, Lamu, Kitui, Machakos, Kiambu, Kajiado, Nairobi, and Garissa,” she said.

According to the PS, the campaign is scheduled to take place from Saturday, October 7, to Wednesday, October 11, 2023, targeting 3,119,158 children under five years of age in all the targeted sub-counties.

“For a long time, it has been assumed that polio largely affects children under five years of age. However, the confirmation of the virus in a 7-year-old child re-affirms that polio is a threat to all persons, irrespective of age, in areas where population immunity is compromised,” said the PS.

Mrs. Muriuki said that in Fafi and Daadab Sub-Counties, as well as all refugee camps in Garissa County, the campaign will target all children under 15 years old.

She insisted that members of the public, especially parents, should ensure that their children are up-to-date on the recommended vaccination schedules.

“The ongoing polio outbreaks are squarely attributed to missed vaccination opportunities among children. I therefore urge all parents to ensure that their children receive all the required doses of the vaccines to stop further polio outbreaks,” said Ms. Muriuki.

She explained that the dose begins at birth, with the birth dose followed by another dose at 6 weeks, 10 weeks, and 14 weeks.

“The government shall continue to undertake polio surveillance among children under the age of 15 while at the same time undertaking environmental surveillance to detect suspected cases promptly,” highlighted the PS.

She highlighted that the recruitment and training of the 100,000 Community Health Promoters (CHPs) will greatly boost these efforts and ensure that vigilance is enhanced at the community level.

She called on every member of the public to report suspected polio cases among children “under 15 years who develop sudden onset of weakness (paralysis) of the hands or legs or both without history of injury to the nearest health facility or chief, including Nyumba Kumi.

“They can also call our hotlines at 719 or 0729471414, or 0732353535,” said Ms. Muriuki.

The PS said that the fight against polio is a collective effort which the government cannot win by itself.

“We call upon development partners to continue their support for this course while appealing to the members of the fourth estate to help in community sensitisation regarding the upcoming polio vaccination campaign,” said the PS.

“I sincerely thank the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM, USAID, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, CORE Group, Kenya Red Cross, and CDC, among others, for their continued support and making this a success,” said the PS.

She said that they are equally grateful for the support provided by the County Governments, other government ministries, local NGOs, faith-based organisations, community leaders, religious leaders, teachers, and the media in making sure that every child is reached with quality, safe, and effective vaccines.

By Joseph Ng’ang’a

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