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Opinions of Friday, 23 October 2015

Columnist: thefinderonline.com

Polio, never again

Opinion Opinion

The 2015 sub-national immunisation day campaign against polio has been launched in Accra to ensure all children under the stipulated age are properly immunised.

The theme, ‘Kick Polio out of Ghana for Good life: Vaccinate your child,’ is to inform parents on the need to immunise their children for a healthy living and for the upbringing of good future leaders.

The campaign, which starts tomorrow to Saturday, October 24, is to help eradicate polio in the districts, if not completely, and ensure that no child dies or suffers from the disease.

The exercise is targeting about 108 districts in the country and hopes to immunise about 2.9 million children.

Almost 22,000 volunteers will move from house to house to immunise all children from birth to five years against polio.

Since the beginning of the national immunisation in October 1996, about 196,320,587 doses of vaccines have been administered.

Vaccination has saved about 13 million children from paralysis.
It is estimated that eradication of polio in Ghana can, at least, save the country about $40-$50 million over the next 20 years, and, if successful, no child will suffer from polio.

The polio vaccine is safe and free, and would be given as droplets in the mouth; the doses to be administered are additional doses every child should receive even if he/she has been immunised already.

Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease caused by wild poliovirus types 1, 2 and 3.

The virus is transmitted from person-to-person through ingestion of infected faecal matter.

Following infection, the virus is shed intermittently in excrement for several weeks with little or no symptoms in majority of cases.

The initial symptoms of poliomyelitis include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.

Polio, a disease that leaves children crippled for life, has been eliminated from most countries in the region.

In 1988, when WHO and partners established the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, aiming to eradicate polio, the disease was paralysing over 1,000 children per day and was active in all countries of the region.

Even though the main strategy is house to house, efforts must be made to reach all children who may be found in all other places outside the home, such as schools, markets and lorry parks, because there should be no barrier to this exercise because the vaccine is free and safe.

Difficulty in reaching remote areas for immunisation, lack of accurate relay of information, inadequate numbers of motivated and/or adequately trained staff, and securing adequate funding to implement planned and outbreak activities are some of the challenges facing the fight against polio.

Ghana has attained a polio-free status in line with the requirement of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Ghana’s polio-free status meant that polio was no longer in the country.

By WHO requirement, a country is said to have attained a polio-free status if it has not recorded any case of polio for three consecutive years.
While celebrating the milestone, the countries should maintain high quality and effective surveillance for polio to avoid resurgence.