Nearly one million Liberian children have again been immunized against the crippling polio disease, Liberian health authorities have said.
This year’s polio campaign targeted at least 945,000 children under five across the country.
At least 2,300 vaccinators spread out across the country to various homes, business centers, market places, playgrounds in order to ensure that the goal to kick polio out of Liberia is achieved
Liberia was among many countries that were certificated in 2008 as being polio-free. However, the crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by a virus that spreads from person to person, resurfaced in 2009.
The polio vaccine is one of five routine vaccines that are given to children at health centers. The vaccines are given to children in order to protect them against TB, polio, pneumonia, measles and whooping cough.
Mothers and guardians are encouraged to bring their children under five years old for the polio vaccine.
UNICEF in their polio campaign stated that never before in the history of polio have so few children in so few countries contracted the crippling virus. They added: “We cannot rest until the number of cases is zero, UNICEF said on the eve of World Polio Day.”
“Progress to end polio is real and dramatic, with now just two countries in the world where the wild polio virus has never been interrupted: Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said Peter Crowley, head of the Polio Unit at UNICEF. “But – and it’s a big but – until all children everywhere are consistently and routinely immunized against polio, the threat remains. We cannot let down our guard; we have to keep going until there is not a single child anywhere who remains unvaccinated.”
UNICEF disclosed that globally there have been just 51 cases of wild polio virus since the beginning of 2015, compared with 242 wild polio cases for 2014.
According to them, these successes are a result of political will and government leadership in affected countries; the strong mobilization and engagement of communities; the courage and commitment of front-line workers; and the combined, coordinated efforts of the partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF.
As part of its contribution to this Initiative, UNICEF delivered 1.7 billion doses of vaccine in 2014 and supported the training of tens of thousands of front-line workers in communities around the world. “Other success factors have been the integration of additional life-saving interventions for children such as routine immunization, nutrition, hand washing with soap, and breastfeeding, into polio campaigns, particularly in the most under-served and high-risk areas.”
For her part, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, stated that the successes in Africa demonstrate that strategies for eradication of vaccine preventable diseases work when they are fully implemented.
She further stated that health care workers, community mobilizers, religious and traditional leaders are the real unsung heroes in the fight against polio; adding: “The combined, coordinated efforts of these front-line workers have brought us to where we are today, a step closer to global polio eradication. Creating community demand has increased access to polio vaccination and basic health care services through a combination of awareness-raising activities related to the disease, its consequences and its prevention.”
Dr. Moeti, however, said despite these progresses, the fight against polio is far from over. “We need to consistently and routinely immunize all children until there is not a single case anywhere. Also, surveillance has to be strengthened to timely detect and respond to any polio case until Africa is certified polio-free.”