Thousands Vaccinated Against Polio

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By Chrispin Inambao RUNDU The first round of the mass vaccination exercise against poliomyelitis, the crippling disease which claimed a dozen lives since it resurfaced this month after a decade of absence, started the in Kavango Region yesterday. The exercise involving over 500 health workers assisted by an army of 117 volunteers, took place simultaneously in all the nine constituencies of Mukwe, Ndiyona, Mashare, Rundu Rural East, Rundu Rural West, Rundu Urban, Kapako, Kahenge and Mpungu. Kavango Regional Governor John Thighuru was among the first people in the region to have the compulsory two drops of the bitter-tasting liquid placed on his tongue at Sarasungu Lodge on the banks of Kavango River. Thighuru took his dosage at eight o’clock followed by Governors Bernard Sibalatani (Caprivi) and Penda ya Ndakolo (Oshikoto) who were in Rundu for a workshop Shortly after the dose was administered Thighuru travelled to the fixed point set outside the clinic at Ndama where school children and residents of the densely populated settlement queued up for the dose and had their right thumbs inked with a blue dot. Thighuru, who went on radio bombarding residents with information on the importance of being vaccinated to prevent death by asphyxiation or permanent crippling of one in every 200 of its victims, also vaccinated a few people at Ndama. After vaccinating a boy and a woman at Ndama with doses of the monovalent vaccine the Governor said he sent out messages advising traditional and other leaders to encourage their people to be vaccinated against a disease that spreads through faecal-oral contamination and that can paralyse its victims between within one to two weeks. Timoteus Haita, the registered nurse in charge of the clinic at Ndama said by 09h50 yesterday morning he had vaccinated 315 children aged between a day old to five years while the number of those aged between five and above stood at 439 by that time. Haita, whose fixed point was allocated 270 vials of the vaccine, said he expects to vaccinate at least 3000 people from Ndama in Rundu Rural West by the time the nationwide exercise concludes tomorrow and he noted one vial is enough for 20 people. Maria Alfeus, a cleaner at Ndama came in handy as she vaccinated some of the people. Haita said after the people are vaccinated their right thumbs are marked with bluish ink and that the left thumb will also be inked during the second round of the vaccination. At the clinic at Mashare this newspaper counted 16 young boys and girls in a queue that ran parallel to that of women, some with babies strapped on their backs and one elderly woman who was leaning quite heavily on her walking stick as she waited her turn. Among those vaccinated by Faustinus Ndango the enrolled nurse in charge of the health facility at Mashare was Kayando Minga, a shopkeeper. Around noon, when a journalist from this publication visited the clinic, the nurse had vaccinated almost 3000 men, women and children. The number of women of child-bearing age vaccinated by that time stood at 685 and there were also 120 expectant mothers already vaccinated while 86 children under five received their dose. Those vaccinated in the exercise that started at 06h30 were from nearby villages at Cheye, Katondo, Mashare, and from the agricultural college at Mashare. The eight-person team deployed at the church-run clinic at Sambyu vaccinated 2606 people in the period from 07h00 until 11h45 from nearby settlements at Katimba, Gove, Otokota and Manchenya in Mashare Constituency. Student nurse Mughongoro in a team that consisted of one nurse and five volunteers said his team had slightly over a hundred vials. Every person in Namibia, including visitors, should be immunized against polio during the first and second round of the present campaign irrespective of their immunization status. While every child under five years must be immunized during the third round from 22 to 24 August that will include polio and measles vaccines plus vitamin A supplementation. The first round of the vaccination campaign that started yesterday ends tomorrow while the second round will last from 18 until 20 July. Those interviewed said the exercise was proceeding smoothly.