A much safer polio vaccine will be introduced to Namibia in April next year when the country transitions from trivalent live oral poliomyelitis vaccine (ToPV) to bivalent oral polio vaccine (BoPV), the Ministry of Health and Social Services said this week.
Marjorie van Wyk, the Acting Deputy Director for the Family Health Division in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, explained that the introduction of the new vaccine means the strains of polio type two will not be present in the new vaccine, thus making it safer.
“This is to make it safer for our children because there may be vaccine-derived polio outbreaks,” explained Van Wyk. Furthermore, Van Wyk said the switch to BoPV is recommended in the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
“ToPV worked very well because polio virus 2 has been eliminated in Namibia and that’s the reason they said we can switch,” Van Wyk told New Era.
According to the Namibia Child Survival strategy for 2014-2018, Namibia has been polio free since October 2008. This is attributed mainly to the fact that the Ministry of Health and Social Services has been able to contain the spread of vaccine-preventable disease over the years with its active national immunization programme, according to the strategy document.
The immunization programme, the report says, has contributed to the reduction in child mortality. Furthermore, Van Wyk said although the country has a good national programme of about 80 percent coverage, the aim is to vaccinate all children. She explained that the 20 percent of children who are not vaccinated can mainly be attributed to parents neglecting to take their children to health facilities for vaccination.
“To find that 20 percent of children who are not immunized is difficult. It is difficult to reach them, they can be in Opuwo, Kavango or even here in Windhoek,” said Van Wyk who spoke to New Era on the sidelines of the UNICEF and government annual review meeting.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Social Services and UNICEF will soon sign a memorandum of understanding that will ensure the Namibian government spends 60 percent less on vaccines, the UNICEF country representative Micaela Marques de Sousa said at the meeting.
“The efficiency gains that this decision has brought will be enormous,” stated Marques de Sousa.