ZIMBABWE – The Republic of Zimbabwe, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), has kickstarted a synchronized multicounty polio vaccination campaign aimed at protecting children against polio.
The WHO Country Office outlined that more than 2.5 million children under five years of age are targeted across the country in the first vaccination round to boost protection levels among Zimbabwean children while averting importation of the poliovirus from affected countries.
“Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia are also currently carrying out coordinated vaccination campaigns, with more than 40 million doses administered during the first three rounds of the exercise, following the detection of the first case of wild poliovirus in Malawi in 30 years,” the agency said.
WHO announced in a statement that the first round of vaccination will take place from October 27th until October 30th 2022 with a second round planned for December while noting that the Zimbabwean government has already distributed over six million vaccine doses across all 63 districts.
“Other critical interventions to keep Zimbabwe free of Polio besides the campaign are strengthening surveillance and routine immunization. Polio is a debilitating disease that can cause permanent disability and even death,” the agency cautioned.
During the launching ceremony, Dr. John Mangwiro, the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) underscored that the administration of multiple rounds of supplementary doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) to all at risk children is a cost-effective public health measure.
“In the spirit of leaving no one behind, the ministry and its partners have made significant investments in deploying teams to conduct house-to-house and door-to-door polio mobilization and vaccination of all children under five years in all areas of the country for the four campaign days,” he said.
Dr. Mangwiro further said that all the health facilities in the country will be administering the polio vaccine throughout the campaign period, adding that the ministry has planned for special mobile teams to cover all hard-to-reach areas in the country and reach out to all targeted children.
“The government of Zimbabwe through the MoHCC has already distributed over six million vaccine doses across all 63 districts of the country, with the support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI),” outlined the Deputy Health Minister.
With the goal of eradicating polio from Southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s health authorities are taking the lead in social mobilization and community engagement to ensure that no child is left behind when the rollout begins.
He further revealed that radio and TV public announcements are ongoing while the mobilization has been intensified in all provinces and districts.
“Coordination meetings are being held in all provinces and pre-rollout activities have been completed, including the training of vaccinators who will go door-to-door explaining the benefits of the vaccine and immunizing all eligible children,” said Dr. Mangwiro.
The WHO Representative to Zimbabwe, Dr Alex Gassasira stressed that it is critical that every mother and caregiver, including those in hard-to-reach and most vulnerable communities, are supported so that all children aged below 5 years of age, are vaccinated during the forthcoming campaigns.
“The World Health Organization and other GPEI partners, together with national authorities, are committed across the region to end polio once and for all,” reaffirmed Dr. Gassasira.