SIERRA LEONE—The Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and National Public Health Agency, with cooperation from WHO and other partners, have announced the conclusion of the first phase of a nationwide immunisation programme.

UNICEF, Rotary International, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, collaborated on this initiative to combat the spread of vaccine-derived type 2 poliovirus (cVDPV2) in Sierra Leone.

The vaccination campaign began in March 2024, following the detection of a type 2 poliovirus (cVDPV2) epidemic in Sierra Leone and neighbouring Guinea and Liberia.

Approximately 1,669,594 children under the age of five have been vaccinated across the country in this initial round.

During the campaign, around 4,000 healthcare teams were mobilised, which included community involvement and vaccine administration.

This was followed by synchronised house-to-house polio vaccination programmes in five other countries—Liberia, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso—with the novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV2).

The goal of the synchronisation was to ensure that every child under the age of five received the vaccine at the same time, which is an important step in eliminating polio.

This is the first of two planned rounds, with the second scheduled to take place in June.

Commenting on the exercise, Professor Senessie, the Deputy Minister of Health, noted that Sierra Leone has made significant progress for mothers and emphasized the need to focus on children’s health across different life stages using a person-centered approach.

According to Professor Senessie, this immunisation effort demonstrates the government’s dedication to Sierra Leoneans by working to reduce illnesses, particularly among children.

He also highlighted that the country still has a long way to go to minimise the occurrence of childhood illnesses and their negative consequences, and he committed to continue working with partners to achieve this agenda.

The polio vaccination campaign is part of a bigger response plan spearheaded by national health agencies to combat the spread of polio.

Parallel initiatives include increasing surveillance and case detection, improving sample collection, obtaining and distributing vaccines in health facilities, and training and deploying vaccinators.

Community engagement was also used to educate people on how to prevent polio.

Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that can spread from person to person, resulting in paralysis.

The WHO will continue to collaborate with all partners to assist the Sierra Leone government, through the Ministry of Health, in strengthening health systems and advancing the country’s universal health coverage goal.

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