NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE POLIO VACCINATION CAMPAIGN
Last month the Independent Africa Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication Declared Africa free of the wild polio virus. This marks the eradication of the second virus from the face of the continent since smallpox 40 years ago. Historic as it may be, there is however no cause for jubilation as the mild form of the polio virus is still in circulation dubbed Vaccine Derived Polio virus Type 2. This mild form has been attributed to poor sanitation and low vaccination. Sixteen (16) countries in Africa are currently experiencing outbreaks. Ghana’s vaccination record is touted high however sanitation is nothing to write home about despite efforts to raise the standard. Poliomyelitis or polio is a vaccine-preventable infectious disease that cause paralysis and death. It is also known as a disease of filth as the virus enters the body through water or food that has been contaminated with infected faeces. It would not be far fetched to think about open defecation, blatant generation of filth with careless abandon everywhere, choked gutters and more which cause so much harm with increased illnesses especially during the rainy season. Health experts say polio affects both children and adults but, children under five years are most at risk. Polio has no cure but can only be prevented through immunization, good hygienic and sanitation practices.
Since July 2019, Ghana alongside its neighbours has had challenges with the type 2 polio-virus with outbreaks in some parts of the country. Ghana confirmed three (3) events of Circulating Polio Virus Type 2, in July and August 2019. Two from environmental samples in Koblimagu, Tamale in the Northern Region and Agbogbloshie in Greater Accra, and the first human case in a sample from a 2 year 9 months old child from Chereponi District in the North East Region. This child developed Acute Flaccid Paralysis or floppy lower limbs. Indeed, polio is not a disease to be toyed with due to its crippling lifelong paralysis. Additional floppy paralysis cases have been detected bringing Ghana’s total cases to 31 from July 2019 to date. Immediate outbreak response actions including vaccination campaigns have been embarked upon as 11 out of 16 regions have confirmed at least a case or reported environmental event of Type 2 Polio outbreak. Though COVID-19 derailed the timelines for vaccination campaign, the Ministry of Health and partners have today, September 10, began a three-day sub national polio immunization campaign in 179 districts within Eight regions. These are Ashanti, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Volta, Upper West, Western and Western North. Among the objectives are to stop local transmission of the polio virus type 2 and to maintain a high population immunity as a fully immunized population is the surest bet for full protection and further prevention of outbreaks.
The campaign is targeting more than four and a half million children under five years. Parents, and care givers should take advantage of the children being at home now and make them available to be immunized for extra protection and also make sure the children complete all vaccinations by two years. Children who have never been immunized should not also miss this opportunity because the vaccines are safe. Teams have been trained and COVID-19 prevention protocols have been provided with Personal Protective Equipment and alcohol-based sanitizers for use to ensure optimal infection protection. Let us all continue to observe improved personal hygiene and good sanitation practices, avoid dumping human waste haphazardly and wash our hands properly after visiting the toilet. The 30-year global campaign to wipe out Polio dubbed; Polio Endgame must be taken seriously because in our part of the world disability is almost tantamount to being cursed.
BY: THERESA OWUSU AKO.