Malawi kicks off second round of polio vaccination campaigns amid outbreak

MALAWI – Malawian Government has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to roll out the second phase of polio vaccination campaigns targeting children under 5 years.

Recently, Malawi successfully completed the first phase of vaccination campaigns where 2.97 million children aged between 0 – and 59 months were vaccinated against polio in the campaign representing 102 percent administrative coverage.

The Ministry of Health administered over 6.9 million doses of oral polio vaccine procured by the United Nations Children’s Fund targeting 2.9 million children under five in the four-round vaccination drive.

Malawi reported the last case in 1992 and Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio from the region.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system causing total paralysis within hours.

The virus is transmitted from person-to-person mainly through the fecal-oral route or through contaminated water or food where the virus multiplies in the intestine.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), one out of 100 people with poliovirus infection will develop more serious symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord.

Paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with polio and while there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through administration of a simple and effective vaccine.

The recent vaccination campaign in Malawi targets to achieve this and will protect the yet to be immunized children as well as boost immunity in those who have been immunized.

In addition, supplementary immunization is intended to complement the normal immunization route and not replace it completely.

The Ministry of Health plans to administer over 80 million doses of oral polio vaccine recommended by World Health Organization to more than 23 million children in a four-round vaccination drive in five southern African countries.

The second-round targets children under 5 years in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia to support Malawi’s neighboring countries through effective polio vaccinations to halt the outbreak and extinguish the threat.

Malawi has also set up environmental surveillance for polioviruses in 11 sites across four cities in Lilongwe District that encompasses the capital Lilongwe where the initial and so far, only case was detected.

Other sites are in Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba cities as well as in health facilities and communities where health teams are collecting samples from the environment and sending them for analysis to laboratories

Moreover, WHO is collaborating with Malawian health authorities to reinforce response measures including disease surveillance, risk assessment and preparations for the vaccination campaigns.

A surge team from WHO which is part of a broader multi-partner Global Polio Eradication Initiative has further partnered with country-based counterparts, partner organizations and the government to end the disease outbreak.

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