‘Come and Get Protected’

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services Dr Kalumbi Shangula has urged Namibians to show up in big numbers during the second anti-polio campaign starting today. The campaign is a follow-up to the mass polio vaccination that took place recently. Shangula also spoke out against myths that have surrounded the polio vaccination since the killer disease was declared a national emergency. According to Shangula, the Ministry of Health and Social Services is the only institution that has a constitutional mandate to look into the health of the Namibian people. As such, citizens should take information disseminated by the ministry seriously. He was speaking in light of reported cases of resistance or myths emerging after the public was requested to go for polio vaccinations during the first round of the massive polio immunization campaign that lasted from June 21 to 23. “The ministry has no interest but to fulfil its mandate and we cannot give raw information to the public,” he said. He urged all people in the country including those who did not turn up during the first round to receive the required two drops of Monovalent Type One Oral Poliomyelitis (mOPV) vaccine. With the second round mass vaccination starting today, the Health and Social Services Permanent Secretary confirmed that all arrangements are in place to vaccinate all Namibians as well as visitors. He does not foresee any hiccups during the second round that ends on July 20. The third round that will target children under the age of five will run from August 22 to 24, 2006. During the first round, there were reports of shortage of polio vaccines in some areas. Various vaccination outlets also reported that lower numbers of people trickled in for the polio drops compared to the big rush on the first day. Some vaccination points opened late and others opened at midday due to shortage of vaccines because of the higher numbers of people found in specific regions. According to Shangula, a number of lessons were learned from the first campaign. Hence the ministry is more prepared than before. “Come, get protected, we are aware that some people feel they are protected and listen to those who tell them not to go for vaccinations. That person will not die with you,” he warned, as he called on Namibians to turn up in numbers. Since the polio outbreak was declared more than a month ago, 212 cases have been reported with 19 confirmed as polio. Shangula would not say what the other 193 cases are but added that most diseases and their symptoms can mimic polio. This is the largest polio vaccination exercise since the country attained independence. The first round of the mass polio campaign was reported to have been executed superbly both organizationally and in terms of sensitizing the entire nation on how the paralytic disease is spread. Namibia’s partners such as UNICEF and WHO assisted with teams of short-term consultants from Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, USA, Zimbabwe and Zambia.