The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MHSW) with support from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), has recently completed a four-day polio vaccination exercise across Liberia. According to a press release, the ministry targeted to vaccinate 972,870 children under the age of five. The vaccination exercise started on Friday, March 26, and ended on Monday, March 29.
Polio is a highly infectious disease that is spread in places with poor sanitation, open defecation, and overcrowding that affects mostly children. The virus has no cure, and it causes lifelong paralysis in children, and in some cases, can cause death, experts report. The virus is also transmitted when water, food, or hands become contaminated by stool containing weaker diseases.
The exercise, according to the release, was in collaboration with partners. The release further added that the goal of the exercise was to vaccinate 95% of the 972,870 targeted while observing COVID-19 protocols that ensure vaccinators, health workers, and communities adhere to the pandemic precaution.
GPEI which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), Center for Disease (CDC) and Rotary goal is to ensure that no child is ever paralyzed again by the virus.
It can be recalled in February 2021, the MOH declared Polio as an outbreak in the country as a public health emergency. The polio outbreak was the country’s first since 2008.
“Children in Liberia are at a risk of contracting this incurable disease if they are not vaccinated against polio,” the Ministry says.
A child cannot get the Vaccine-Deprived Poliovirus (cVDPV) infection after receiving a vaccine. cVDPVs emerge when not enough children are vaccinated against polio, and the weakened strain of the poliovirus contained in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) circulates among under-immunized populations for a long time in areas with poor sanitary conditions.
This according to the MOH, is in line with the world’s efforts to curb and eradicate the Polio virus. The ministry is therefore encouraging citizens and residents in the borders of Liberia to make available their children under the age of 5 to be vaccinated.
Many times parents and guardians denied the children from taking vaccines due to fear that health workers may give different vaccines that will harm their children. However, the MOH has said that the vaccine has little to no side effects and can be given multiple times to boost immunity against the virus.
Additionally, the vaccine, according to the Polio Global Eradication Initiative (PGEI), is very safe and interrupts the person-to-person spread of polio. However, on rare occasions, in under-immunized populations, the live weakened virus originally contained in OPV can mutate into cVDPV.
As the world gets closer to ending the transmission of wild polio altogether, the global polio program will increasingly focus on eliminating the risk of cVDPV.