Parents in Kajiado County have been urged to avail all their children under the age of five for vaccination against polio.
The polio vaccination drive which targets 13 high risk counties will see 3.4 million children vaccinated against the virus.
In Kajiado County, 965,243 children below the age of five will be vaccinated. Other counties that are targeted include Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kitui, Machakos, Kiambu, Tana River, Lamu and Nairobi.
The first phase of the exercise will run from 22nd to 26th May with the second phase running from 19th to 23rd June.
The County Director Public Health Samson Saigilu revealed that the vaccination drive was necessitated after the confirmation of six cases of poliovirus in February from sewerage materials in Garissa, and Mombasa.
Speaking in Kajiado during the launch of the polio drive, Saigilu said that although Kenya has been polio free since 2015, several outbreaks have been recorded due to importations through the porous borders.
During the polio outbreak that occurred in Garissa County in 2013, some 14 people were paralyzed by the disease, while two others died following complications arising from the disease.
” We have some cases that were confirmed in Mombasa and Garissa, while Kajiado is among the 13 counties at risk due to its proximity to the border,” he said.
Saigilu noted that polio was a deadly disease that not only causes paralysis, but also permanent disability and affects muscles that aid in breathing and no child should be put at risk by missing out on vaccination.
The director added that children aged below 5 years are targeted as they are particularly vulnerable to diseases as their immunity is not yet fully developed to fight many infections.
A polio ambassador Samson Tipape noted that it was every child’s right to receive the vaccine so as to be protected from the paralyzing infection.
Tipape noted that some parents hide their children and chase away health officials administering the vaccine, thus putting the lives of their children at risk.
“There are some parents who hide their children so that they do not receive the polio vaccine due to their religious beliefs. This is illegal and they risk arrest,” said Tipape, who suffered paralysis as a child due to polio infection.
Cases of polio worldwide have reduced significantly by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then, to 2 wild polio virus cases reported this year. Currently, only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, remain polio-endemic.
Though the World Health Organization (WHO) had certified the Africa Region polio free in 2020, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and weaknesses in routine immunization in neighboring countries have led to a resurgence of polio outbreaks.
By Rop Janet