By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Although there is a slight increase in the number of suspected polio cases across the country, the Ministry of Health says it has through its polio vaccination campaigns disrupted the transmission chain. Yesterday, Health and Social Services Permanent Secretary Dr Kalumbi Shangula upon the release of the preliminary results of the round two vaccination campaign reported that since the introduction of the mass immunization exercises, the ministry continues to record cases and deaths, although at a much lower rate than before the mass vaccinations. There are at present 236 suspected cases with 27 deaths. Twenty of these cases have been confirmed to be polio. Of the recorded cases, more than 100 have been discounted as polio cases. However, these confirmed cases and deaths involve mainly adults. Round two of the campaign in the thirteen regions went smoothly especially that all the regions were well prepared given the experiences in round one. The preliminary national coverage for the second round stands at 101 percent compared to the preliminary results of round one, which stood at 100.42 percent. The final figure for national coverage for round one stands at 102 percent. The permanent secretary further stated that the surveillance activities will continue even beyond the campaign. This will be to monitor the situation and keep it under control. An evaluation meeting for round two starts today and ends tomorrow. To be discussed will be the challenges and plans for round three, which will see the vaccination of children from the age of zero to five years. Shangula urged all parents and guardians to take their children for vaccinations that will start from the 22nd to 24th August. Unlike the recently ended vaccinations, round three will include Vitamin A supplementation, measles and trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV). Shangula reiterated that the response during both rounds was good and added that it would be impressive if the same level of enthusiasm is shown during the third round. Meanwhile, Frederick Philander reports from Mariental that Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi said: “With the exception of six of the thirteen regions, all others have reported good results ranging from 90% to 104% participation of the country’s people.” The target had been 90%, but the ministry managed to achieve 94%. The minister cited Hardap (105%), Erongo (95%), Khomas (109%) and the Karas Region (102%) as success stories. “These results could only be achieved thanks to the willingness and cooperation of all Namibians during the campaign,” said Kamwi, who thanked the World Health Organization and UNICEF for its prompt reaction to assist the country with the necessary vaccines. Kamwi also expressed profound gratitude towards the business sector, which provided some 800 vehicles. Kamwi said that it is normal that a campaign of this magnitude takes four weeks, but Namibia did it in only two weeks. Some 1 118 vehicles, more than 7 000 personnel and 1 545 teams took part in round two of the campaign. An amount of N$8.3 million was used for transport, food, daily subsistence allowances, communication, materials and rental of equipment and facilities during round one. Shangula commended all those who have been working together with the ministry in tackling the problem, adding, “The ministry alone would not have succeeded if you had not rendered your unwavering support in terms of personnel, finance, transport and logistics.” This was the first major polio vaccination campaign since independence. While Namibia could have obtained her certificate this year May as a polio-free country, the outbreak has placed Namibia in a position where it cannot be declared free of the disease. According to WHO Country Representative Custodia Mandlhate, between May 2005 and May 2006, the WHO had started looking into the issue of certifying Namibia. Given the current situation, Namibia will have to submit its polio status in October 2006 while surveillance activities will be done for the next three years before it can be determined whether the country can qualify to be declared polio free. The virus that hit the country is said to have an Indian strain, the same found in Angola last year. It is however not known exactly how and where the virus came from, Shangula said.
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