Phase 2 polio campaign- a timely intervention
Lilongwe - Malawi is running a second phase of a national polio vaccination campaign targeting over 9.5 million children below the age of 15 years in all districts of Malawi running from 13th to 16th September. Immunizing all children including those that previously received in the past. According to WHO’s Dr Boston Zimba, the intervention was designed after noticing an increased risk of polio transmission in children with another case of a 14-year-old child reported in Blantyre, Malawi. This follows a case of a 3-year-old which was discovered in Lilongwe in February 2022. Exposing a population immunity gap which the previous polio campaign did not extensively reach to. This case redefined the age group for polio vaccine in the country and brought a need to protect children within this age group which marks 95 percent of the population.
Commenting on the initiative Chief Preventative Health Officer, Penjani Chunda said this second round of polio vaccine underscores the impact this case has made in driving collective efforts and commitment towards protecting all children in the country and neighboring countries. “The World Health Organization’s work partnering with the Ministry of Health in surveillance has been key in the fight against polio in Malawi. Without close monitoring, gathering of samples and information dissemination on alerts, transmission would not be contained, and such interventions would be lacking. The response from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and its developing partners like WHO, UNICEF and shows commitment to ending polio in Malawi. This is what moves communities to comply despite their different perspectives on vaccine intake”, he said.
Lusungu Gondwe is one of the foot soldiers administering the polio vaccine on a door-to-door basis. She is a Health surveillance Assistant at Zingwangwa Health Centre in Blantyre. She praises the support from the World Health Organization. She says WHO’s support has enabled health workers to reach out to the hardest reach populations. “WHO has motivated us. They have provided all necessary resources, adequate vaccines, and timely incentives. This has enabled us to work even harder to serve our communities better. What is most important to note is the presence of WHO people in the communities. Following up and supporting teams on the ground, monitoring the delivery and progress including helping in mobilization of people and administering the vaccine were necessary, demonstrating to us how things should be done.”
When asked her thoughts after taking her vaccine, Doreen from Naotcha Primary School in Chilobwe says the dedication by WHO and Health worker team has motivated her to become a nurse or doctor when she grows up and encourage children to take their vaccine so that they can be protected from diseases like polio.
The campaign not only ends at immunization on the ground. It involves collaborated efforts of a team from different pillars and organizations, WHO, Ministry of Health, UNICEF and Global Polio Eradication manning a National Operations Center overseeing planning, logistics, service, and data analysis from all districts and informing actions to be taken to ensure the effective implementation of the second polio immunization. A team tirelessly working in partnership to end polio in Malawi.