When Will Namibia Now Be Declared Polio-Free?

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Medical Association of Namibia (MAN) has warned that vaccine-preventable diseases will resurface if people do not take vaccination seriously. The Association said last week that the recent polio outbreak, which claimed at least 32 lives, was a result of some people not being vaccinated against the disease. “The disease came with vengeance because a number of people were not vaccinated against polio,” said the Association in a statement issued on Friday. The disease, which paralyses its victims, was almost eradicated in Namibia which had not reported a polio case for more than 10 years and was preparing to be declared polio-free. Due to the outbreak, the country’s status of being polio-free now remains unknown, and it will have to wait until some six months have elapsed from the date the disease was reported. Since the disease broke out in May, 300 cases of acute flaccid paralysis were reported, of which only 20 were confirmed cases of polio. The Association said the outbreak was a lesson to citizens of Namibia on what other vaccine-preventable diseases could do if the country does not vaccinate. According to the World Health Organization, immunization saves millions of children from death and disability every year, and only people have the power to create wellness for themselves and their families by choosing to vaccinate. The association said the fact that the disease, which was imported from Angola, took a foothold in Namibia, indicates that a fraction of the population was not yet vaccinated against polio. Present figures indicate that the coverage of children younger than 15 years of age is good, but adults who were not immunized during their childhood were prone to disease, confirming why adults were the hardest hit. “It is an known phenomenon in the epidemiology of vaccine-preventable diseases that adults become vulnerable when there is a drop in the level of immunization,” the statement said, adding that children who are not immunized are equally in danger. Vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases remains the most natural, efficient, safe and ultimately the least expensive intervention against diseases known to the medical world. Although serious events occur albeit rarely after vaccination, children especially are far more likely to be affected by communicable diseases than by any vaccine. MAN urged parents to take responsibility for their children by committing to scheduled vaccination programmes, as the benefits thereof have ripple effects on communal, national and possibly global health. The Association lamented the fact that some parents do not immunize their children because of unfounded scares which not only put the lives of such children in danger but also children of other people, and ultimately the whole community. Common, untrue contra-indications are that children cannot be immunized when they are very small and also that autism is caused by the measles/MMR vaccine, which MAN said was not true as the measles/MMR vaccine does not cause autism. “Vaccines prevent diseases in people who receive them and protect those who come into contact with unvaccinated individuals. Vaccines help prevent infectious diseases, help save lives and help provide you and your family with good health and long life,” MAN urged.