Mass polio vaccination to start tomorrow

The Ghana Health Service would from Thursday begin vaccinating more than 500,000 children under five years against poliomyelitis, the virus-causing crippling, disease in the Western Region.

The exercise would be carried out nationwide simultaneously to consolidate the country’s success rate over the polio virus, which was last reported in Ghana in 2001.

The Western Regional Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr. Kofi Asemanyi-Mensah, told journalists in Takoradi at a press briefing ahead of the exercise that, volunteers had been trained to visit households to dispense polio vaccines to 90 children per day.

He said the aim of the house-to-house campaign was to enable traders and individuals who might not be able to send their children to a designated centre to have them vaccinated.

He said the first phase of this year’s National Immunization programme would be held between Thursday, September 18 and Saturday, October 2, while the second phase would come off between October 30 and November 1, this year.

He said the region had been allocated GHC500, 000 towards the immunization campaign and, therefore, entreated the media to support the efforts of the Ghana Health Service to create awareness and sensitise the public to avail their children of the vaccination.

Dr. Asemanyi-Mensah noted that although Ghana was not one of the polio endemic countries, the exercise formed part of a synchronized immunization programme in West Africa because Nigeria remained polio endemic in the Sub-region.

He said the World Health Organisation annually spent one billion US dollars worldwide on polio campaigns in an effort to eradicate the virus, which mostly paralyzed its victims.

“Parents should not prevent their children from being immunized against polio based on religious beliefs or orientation because children are the State’s assets, therefore, their health needs are paramount,” he stated.

Dr. Asemanyi-Mensah assured the public that the GHS had adequately resourced volunteers to visit hard-to-reach areas in the region to vaccinate children, and noted that the world stood to benefit between 40 billion to 50 billion dollars in two decades if the polio virus was eradicated.

He said Ghana had always recorded over 90 per cent coverage during national immunization campaigns due to the rapid response from authorities, especially, when polio cases were recorded in neighbouring countries.

The polio virus is currently endemic in three countries namely, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. However, the virus can be found in 125 countries with about 1,000 children paralysing daily.

Meanwhile, since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, started in 1988, polio cases have reduced by 99 per cent with the vaccine reaching over 2.5 billion children, while more than five billion disabilities had been prevented worldwide.

This year alone, 146 polio cases have been recorded globally with endemic countries recording 128 cases, whilst non-endemic countries recorded 18 cases. GNA

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