By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The polio vaccines the Government was waiting for later this week may come as early as tomorrow, health Permanent Secretary, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, said. Last week, he told Namibia that the United Nations Children Fund’s (UNICEF) suppliers were airlifting the vaccines that would arrive on June 16. Yesterday, Dr Shangula told New Era the vaccines would arrive earlier, which would also give the ministry more time to train its staff and put the necessary logistics in place. The country is to embark on a mass vaccination campaign, in the wake of an outbreak of the polio Wild Type 1 virus, which has affected 39 people and claimed seven lives as of June 21. The vaccination will cost the country in the range of N$27 million. Since the disease broke out on May 10, 39 people have been affected with five additional people contracting the disease last week. The symptoms are lower limb weakness, paralysis, breathing difficulties, inability to walk, chest pains, cold and flu symptoms, neck stiffness, headache and dizziness. One of the cases that was reported in the Oshikoto Region brings the number of affected regions to four, with the others being Khomas, Otjozondjupa and Hardap As of yesterday, Dr Shangula said, there were no new developments except that the vaccine would arrive earlier than expected. The ministry last week ordered health institutions vaccinating people with the trivalent oral polio vaccine (tOPV) to stop with immediate effect, as this would undermine its efforts to control the epidemic. Panic-stricken Namibians have been streaming to health facilities to be vaccinated against the disease, but, according to Shangula, the monovalent oral polio vaccine (mOTV), which should be used, was not in the country yet. The trivalent vaccine is reserved for national im-munisation days among children under the age of five. Shangula added that the administration of the vaccine reduced the likelihood of the recipient having the appropriate immunological response to mOTV. The mass vaccinations have been scheduled for three rounds to start from June 21-23 for Round 1 and from July 18-20 for Round 2. The last and third round will specifically be meant for children under the age of five years from August 20-24. This vaccine will be a combination of polio and measles vaccination as well as Vitamin A supplementation. In addition to messages the ministry has been relaying to the public through the media, its Directorate of Primary Health Care (PHC) is also in the process of compiling information leaflets and pamphlets, which will be distributed to the public as from Wednesday. Some of the procedures the public should observe in order to prevent contracting the disease are: washing of hands every time after using the toilet and before eating, washing or cooking well all unpackaged foods such as fruit and vegetables, and boiling the water before drinking if the source is suspect.
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