Health ministry introduces new polio vaccine

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Windhoek

The Ministry of Health and Social Services will introduce a new vaccine, the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), into the country’s routine immunization schedule from November 16-20. IPV produces antibodies in the blood to all three
types of poliovirus. In the event of infection, these antibodies prevent the spread of the virus to the central nervous system and protect against paralysis.

The vaccine will be administered during the Maternal and Child Health Week. The IPV injection together with oral polio vaccine (OPV) will give children a stronger immunity against the polio virus. The vaccine will be administered to children who turned 14 weeks and be injected as a dose of injectable polio vaccine on the right thigh.
Juliet Kavetuna, the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, revealed this yesterday when she launched the Maternal and Child Health Week. This year’s theme is “Vaccinated communities are healthy communities.”

Kavetuna also requested parents, caregivers and the community at large to take children under five years of age to the nearest hospital, health centres, clinics and outreach points for children be to be given vitamin A supplement.
She said the supplement would protect children against night blindness and help build their immunity against disease.

Kavetuna said children from 1-5 years would be given de-worming medicine, while women of childbearing age (15-49 years) would be screened for tetanus toxoid status and be vaccinated accordingly. Kavetuna said despite immunization being free at state health facilities, the national immunization data from January to July shows that 7 359 children were not vaccinated with Pentavalent 3. In addition, she said, measles coverage during the
same period was only 77 percent. “This means 23 percent of children were not vaccinated for measles at nine months during that period. This means there is a huge immunity gap among our children, making them vulnerable to
vaccine preventable childhood diseases,” said the deputy health minister.

Kavetuna said that the ministry is also challenged by the maternal, peri-neonatal and children mortality
rate in the country. She said the ministry, with technical and financial support from its development partners, is trying its utmost to devise and implement child survival strategies that would respond to the challenges facing the nation.

World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Prof Dr. Monir Islam in a speech read on his behalf by Dr Desta Tiruneh, the WHO disease prevention and control officer, said that globally they have made great strides in the control of some vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio and measles.

He said that, as an example, in 1988 there were 125 polio endemic countries with 350 000 cases. “But today,
as of November, we are left with two endemic countries with only 51 polio cases. This progress is a shining
example of what can be done when all stakeholders join hands to improve the health of people.”

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