Over 3M children to be vaccinated against polio in Tanzania

More than 3 million children will be vaccinated in Tanzania against polio as authorities try to quash the spread of the crippling infectious disease following its resurgence there after seven years, the Health Ministry said on Friday.

A ministry statement said that the vaccination campaign will take place on Sept. 21-24 in the regions of Rukwa, Katavi, Mbeya, Kagera, Songwe and Kigoma.

During the four-day campaign, 5,291 health service providers will be deployed in the regions, with each team consisting of three service providers. Vaccination services will be administered at healthcare centers, through door-to-door visits, in schools, and in various community gathering places, including houses of worship.

Polio is a highly infectious disease, mostly affecting young children, that attacks the nervous system and can lead to spinal and respiratory paralysis, and in some cases death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzania’s health minister, told reporters that the decision to launch the vaccination drive came after the government received alarming news on May 26 2023. A child aged one year and eleven months showed signs of sudden paralysis, prompting immediate action.

Laboratory tests confirmed the child from Sumbawanga Municipality was infected with the polio virus. In response, the government announced the launch of a special campaign for droplet vaccination against Polio (nOPV2) for all children under the age of eight.

This campaign aims to protect more than 3.2 children born after 2016 against polio virus type 2, which can lead to permanent disability, the statement said.

Mwalimu stressed the importance of parents and guardians cooperating with health care providers to ensure their children receive the vaccination, underscoring the adage that prevention is better than cure.

The resurgence of polio in Tanzania has been linked to cases in neighboring countries such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia. This situation heightens the risk of polio virus infection, particularly in regions directly bordering these countries.

Tanzania was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization in November 2015. However, the recent resurgence underscores the ongoing challenges in eradicating this crippling disease, necessitating a swift and comprehensive vaccination campaign.

Source: Anadolu Agency