Kenya in determined effort to keep polio virus at bay

Kenya remains determined to keep the country free of the polio virus following a finding of a circulating vaccine-derived polio virus in an environmental water sample in Nairobi last April. 
Earlier in the month, the Ministry of Health launched Round Two of its planned polio campaign covering 12 counties at risk and targeting 2.8 under five children. Round Zero of the supplemental Immunization Activity was done in Nairobi only targeting 800,000 children while Round One done in July vaccinated 2.5 million children in the 12 counties. 
Other efforts to keep the virus at bay have been escalated including surveillance activities, border watchfulness, awareness-creation and a strengthened routine immunization through a 100-day Rapid Result Initiative intended to increase immunization uptake countrywide. A synchronized regional polio campaign is also planned for September and will involve Kenya and its neighbouring countries - South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.
The virus found in an environmental (sewage water) site in the Eastleigh area has been closely linked to the poliovirus isolated from similar samples collected in  October and November 2017 and January 2018 in Banadir Province, Mogadishu Somalia. 
“The emergence of the vaccine-derived polio virus in southern Somalia in 2017 and in the informal settlements of Nairobi in Eastleigh in 2018 is a confirmation that the polio threat is real and the virus continues to circulate undetected in the sub-region”, WHO Representative Dr Rudi Eggers stated.
“It also emphasizes the importance of population movements between the countries and the need to address polio eradication activities as a sub-region, not only in a single country like Kenya.”
At the launch this week in Kitui and around the counties, leaders called for concerted effort to protect children by allowing them to be vaccinated.
Speaking at the national Launch of Round Two polio campaign this week in Kitui County, Governor Charity Ngilu  urged the community to bring their children aged below five years for the important vaccination as she emphasized her Kitui government’s effort to support the polio eradication initiative in Kenya. In addition, she asked caregivers and community to report any cases of people who develop sudden weakness/paralysis with no cause to the nearest health facility to ensure that appropriate investigation was done. 
 “The vaccines have also been tested in our national quality laboratory to ensure their quality and safety and to ensure that we have all the children vaccinated to protect them against polio.” 
Speaking at the same venue, the MOH Administrative Secretary Dr Rashid Aman said an intervention like the polio vaccination was life-saving because it helped prevent devastating conditions like polio which affect children less than five years who are particularly vulnerable to diseases. 
He cited the loss experienced in the 2013 polio outbreak in Garissa County in which 14 people were paralyzed by polio and resulted into 2 deaths. “Vaccines offer a very cost effective way of saving lives and consequently strengthen societies/communities and optimize quality of lives of individuals,” he said.
He added that the national and county governments in Kenya had been investing heavily on the immunization programme to ensure availability of vaccines for all children at no cost, hence protecting children from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases.
He emphasized the safety of the vaccines adding that  other than the rigorous quality checks that had been used to ensure safety, they had also  been tested by the National Quality Control Laboratory and found to be safe.
Dr Eggers also underlined the global polio eradication initiative and the regional collaborative efforts to eradicate the virus. In a statement, he said “We are very close to achieving that goal of eradicating polio. We have reduced the number of children suffering from paralysis caused by polio from 350,000 per year in 1988 to 22 in 2017”. 
“Only 1 per cent is left to totally eradicate the disease and we can do this by vaccinating children with the two drops of the vaccine.”
He said all countries in the Horn of Africa were working tirelessly and collaboratively to ensure the region was free of the disease.

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