Government launches fourth round polio vaccination

Zimbabwe has not recorded a single case of polio in the wave that has hit the region but the Government will leave no stone unturned in making sure all children are protected.

This was said by Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora when he launched the 4th round of the polio vaccination campaign at Chinotimba Clinic in Victoria Falls yesterday.

Government elected to launch the programme, which will run until Friday, in the resort city where the national vaccination against Covid-19 was launched in 2021.

This is the city which plays host to thousands of tourists from different parts of the globe as it is an international tourist destination of choice.

Polio cases have been reported in Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

The launch of the 4th round comes as Zimbabwe successfully rolled out three rounds whose success rate was 89 percent, 91 percent and 94,5 percent.

Expectations are high that the 4th round will surpass 95 percent which is the benchmark set by the World Health Organisation.

As with the previous three rounds, the Ministry targets to reach and protect all the nearly 2,8 million children under five years of age with a supplementary dose of the polio vaccine in the wake of a resurgence in the Poliomyelitis (polio) threat in the region.

The launch coincided with the 20th International Inter-Ministerial Conference on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Population and Development which ended yesterday. Dr Mombeshora said the programme marks yet another significant milestone in Government’s drive to protect children from killer diseases through the childhood immunisation programme- the Zimbabwe Expanded Programme on Immunisation (ZEPI).

“Today under that banner we officially launch the fourth (4th) round of the national Polio supplementary vaccination campaign which aims to boost the protection of all children under the age of five years in Zimbabwe against Poliomyelitis.

“Vaccination in this 4th round will run from today (10 October ) to 13 October. The Ministry is conducting these series of polio supplementary vaccination campaigns for children in close collaboration with six other countries in the region namely Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia in the spirit of regional integration and in line with the renewed global Polio eradication drive,” said Dr Mombeshora. He said the identification of Wild Poliovirus 1 cases in 2022 in the region threatens to reverse the gains that have accrued from years of massive investments by the Government in reaching every child with life-saving vaccines.

Dr Mombeshora said this calls for concerted efforts in intensifying and strengthening both routine and supplementary immunisation in the country especially for the under five children who are at the highest risk.

Dr Mombeshora implored citizens to ensure that all children are vaccinated as health teams will be making door-to-door visits in addition to static sites at health centres.

“With each of the scheduled vaccination rounds we continue to remind our communities that Poliomyelitis is indeed a dangerous disease which causes debilitating paralysis and death particularly among children and is targeted for eradication locally and globally. 

“For the record no polio case has been reported in Zimbabwe hence the need to intensify these collaborative Polio response activities with vaccination as the main strategy for us to mitigate potential importation of the disease into the country,” he said.

Government is also pursuing other strategies in the fight against the disease by intensifying surveillance and active search to identify and detect all vaccine preventable diseases, engaging in level advocacy to commit all key stakeholders to the eradication of Polio, training and equipping health workers at all levels for outbreak preparedness and response, intensifying community engagement and awareness campaigns to increase uptake of immunisation and other public health measures.

To complement these measures the country has also introduced environmental sampling for Polioviruses starting with Harare in 2023 with plans underway to roll it out to other cities and provinces.

This will help improve capacity to detect and respond to Poliovirus importation and circulation in Zimbabwe.

Dr Mombeshora said Government, working with partners has put significant investment to ensure that the programme is a success.

Noone will be left behind as mobile teams will visit all remote areas.

Government has acquired adequate doses of polio vaccines for all provinces.

“The Ministry is geared to achieve and even surpass the recommended target of vaccinating and protecting at least 95 percent of the 2, 8 million children under five years. The planned vaccination drive feeds into the broader Government vision of a healthy and prosperous nation as enshrined in the National Health Strategy and the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).

“It is imperative to note that the national vision for 2030 cannot be achieved in the context of disruptive outbreaks of preventable diseases such as Poliomyelitis, measles and the other re-emerging diseases. In addition to targeting these diseases for eradication, the ministry continues to invest in modernising the country’s health delivery system to match increasing demands for disease prevention and control,” said  Dr Mombeshora.

Some of the partners working with Government are WHO, UNICEF, Gavi-the vaccine alliance, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Rotary Club, Crown Agents and many other national and local partners.

“May I end by calling upon all parents and other caregivers of children across Zimbabwe regardless of religion, place or social standing to ensure that all children under five years of age are vaccinated during this period so that we maintain our hard-earned Polio free status as a country,” said Dr Mombeshora.

Dr Mombeshora gave dosses of the vaccine to three children and marked their nails to show they have been vaccinated to signal the start of the vaccination programme.

Ms Rejoice Kafunya (19) from Chinotimba said she heeded the call to make sure her son Andre aged one year is protected.

“I have been bringing him for every health programme to protect him. As a parent I feel safe now that my child is protected and I trust the vaccine is powerful,” she said.

Ms Tryphine Ncube (29), a member of the Johane Masowe EChishanu said she also takes part in all health programmes because her church allows her to do so to protect children.

“My child Trinity Khanye is three years old and I am here to get her a drop of polio vaccine. This is the third time she is getting the dose. I am excited because I now know that she is safe from effects of polio. At church they allow us, I gave birth at the clinic,” she said.

Another mother Ms Ripisai Demba (35) said when she heard the announcement she didn’t waste time as she wants to secure a healthy future for her child.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes polio as a highly infectious disease caused by a virus and can invade the nervous system causing total paralysis in a matter of hours.

“The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle for example, contaminated water or food and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs,” says WHO.


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