MALAWI – Malawian government to roll out the first phase of vaccination campaigns for children under 5 years against wild poliovirus type 1 after a young child in Lilongwe developed the disease.

Mass vaccinations and supplementary vaccinations are the best weapon against the circulation of poliovirus by immunizing every child under 5 years with oral polio vaccine regardless of previous immunization status.

The vaccination campaign will reach children who are immunized, the unimmunized, the partially protected 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 (WHO)to more than 23 million children in the four-round vaccination drive in five southern African countries.

The first-round targets 9.4 million children in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia while the following three rounds which includes Zimbabwe are set for April, June and July aiming to reach over 23 million children.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti reaffirmed the organization’s continued rapid response support to Malawi and its neighbors through effective vaccinations to halt the outbreak and extinguish the threat.

The African region has already defeated wild poliovirus before due to a monumental effort by countries thus WHO is working tirelessly to ensure that every child lives and thrives in a continent free of polio,” she stressed.

The health organization is supporting the country to reinforce response measures including disease surveillance, risk assessment and preparations for the vaccination campaigns.

For instance, a surge team from WHO is working with country-based counterparts, partner organizations and the government to end the wild polio outbreak.

Malawi has also launched environmental surveillance for polioviruses in 11 sites across four cities, health facilities as well as communities where teams are collecting samples from the environment and sending them for analysis to laboratories.

In preparation for the vaccination drives, trained surge teams of national officers have been deployed at district level to facilitate the campaign and ensure that all eligible children are vaccinated.

The teams are also supporting ongoing maintenance and repair of cold chain facilities to facilitate appropriate storage of vaccines for smooth flow of the campaigns.

In addition, Malawi earlier launched public awareness campaigns about wild polio to alert the public of the wild poliovirus outbreak as well as provide information about poliovirus and the vaccine for the virus.

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