MALAWI – The Government of Malawi has kickstarted the third phase of polio vaccination campaigns targeting children under 5 years including children who are immunized, the unimmunized and the partially protected.

Earlier this year, Malawi declared a wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) outbreak in February after confirmation of the virus type, the country’s first wild poliovirus case in 30 years.

Malawi’s Ministry of Health plans to administer around 3.4M vaccine doses in the third round of the national mass vaccination campaign to protect all under 5 children and halt the devastating virus from spreading.

The third vaccination phase seeks to contain the importation of the WPV1 in Malawi and Mozambique and to curb the circulating vaccine derived polioviruses in other countries following four confirmed wild poliovirus cases reported in Mozambique so far.

Wild poliovirus transmission remains at an all-time low, with only six cases reported globally in 2021. Importation of any case must be treated as a serious concern and high-quality response efforts to reach every child with polio vaccine are critical to prevent further spread.

In addition, the Ministry of Health is intensifying routine immunization and surveillance particularly improving access and utilization of routine immunization services to achieve coverage of at least 90% for all antigens.

The Malawian Government continues to work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to reinforce response measures such as disease surveillance, environmental surveillance for polioviruses, risk assessment and preparations for the vaccination campaigns.

Achieving and sustaining optimal routine immunization coverage and high-quality vaccination coverages are key to interrupt the transmission of the ongoing polio outbreak, according to WHO.

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

The second-round targeted children under 5 years in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia to support Malawi’s neighboring countries through effective polio vaccinations while the countries continue implementing key activities in the Polio Eradication Strategic Plan 2022-2026.

The Ministry announced that the four-round vaccination drive targeting children in the five Southern African countries aims to interrupt the circulation of the poliovirus by immunizing every child under 5 years with oral polio vaccine regardless of previous immunization status.

WHO further pointed out that the previous two mass vaccination rounds were of low quality as only five districts out of 29 in round one and nine districts out of 29 in round two have passed the Lot Quality Assurance Survey (LQAS).

The circulation of the virus will only be interrupted if the country delivers quality rounds using house to house vaccination strategy,” said Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo WHO Representative in Malawi.

Dr Neema Rusibamayila urged all front-line workers particularly vaccination teams to visit all houses, churches, markets, schools and communities along with the international border to ensure that all children less than five years old are vaccinated.

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