SOUTH SUDAN—South Sudan has initiated a statewide polio vaccination program aimed at immunizing 3.1 million children with the innovative oral polio vaccine type 2, which has the ability to prevent future outbreaks of type 2 circulating variant-polio viruses (cVDPV2).

This unique oral polio vaccine type 2 has been intended to give safe and dependable poliovirus protection while also being genetically more stable than prior oral polio vaccine types.

Currently, three mutant poliovirus cases have been verified in three of South Sudan’s ten states: Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria, and Upper Nile.

The reported cases include youngsters under the age of five, and unlike in prior poliovirus outbreaks, the afflicted children did not get polio vaccines.

To control the epidemic and prevent future spread, the Ministry of Health, alongside WHO, UNICEF, and other partners, has formed an emergency response task force to coordinate the response while strengthening surveillance efforts.

 The campaign will target every child under the age of five in all 10 states and three administrative districts around the country.

Currently, social mobilizers are working with communities and key stakeholders to raise awareness about vaccination and encourage participation in the weeklong campaign.

In South Sudan, it is believed that 33% of children have not had poliovirus type 2 vaccinations.

Population migrations and relocations have had an influence on the country’s immunization coverage, making it more difficult to reach the most vulnerable children.

Hon. Awut Deng Acuil, Minister of General Education and Instruction, stated in his address on behalf of the Minister of Health that immediate action is required to prevent this outbreak from inflicting more harm to children.

He went on to state that in order for the vaccination campaign to be successful, all parents, caregivers, families, religious groups, and communities must ensure that every child under the age of five receives the polio vaccine throughout the campaign.

He also emphasized the need for thorough coverage, stating that each kid missed during the campaign increases the likelihood of future outbreaks, which the Ministry is determined to prevent.

On his part, Dr. Humphrey Karamagi, WHO Representative for South Sudan, emphasized that polio is a preventable disease and highlighted the significance of the campaign, which is supported by funding from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partnership.

He stressed that this campaign presents a crucial opportunity for vulnerable populations to access critical interventions that can prevent life-threatening diseases, including poliomyelitis-induced disability.

Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF South Sudan Representative, described the nationwide campaign as a pivotal moment in their ongoing efforts to combat polio in South Sudan.

She emphasized that by utilizing the vaccine, which is designed for enhanced efficacy against poliovirus, they can strengthen their defenses and limit the spread of the virus.

Lasseko reiterated UNICEF’s commitment to reinforcing immunization strategies in collaboration with health partners and the Ministry of Health, ensuring that all children have equitable access to vaccination and safeguarding communities against the threat of polio.

Circulating Variant Poliovirus Type 2 instances can arise when the weakened live virus in the oral polio vaccination spreads to unvaccinated persons and mutates, causing paralysis. 

To avoid this, all children should receive the oral polio vaccination whenever it is available, and numerous doses of the vaccine will protect against both wild and circulating mutant polioviruses.

Several African nations, including Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Zambia, and South Sudan, are now reporting paralytic polio infections.

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