Three-round polio immunization drive launched in Tajikistan to stop outbreak
Over one million children under six to be immunizedDUSHANBE, Tajikistan - May 4, 2010 - A three-round polio immunization campaign is starting today in Tajikistan, to stop a polio outbreak threatening children across the country. During one month, health workers and volunteers will immunize three times almost 1,100,000 children under six in health centers and house-to-house visits across the entire country. WHO, UNICEF and other partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are supporting the immunization drive organized by the Ministry of Health.
"The only way to eradicate polio is immunization, - said Dr. Salimov, Minister of Health of the Republic of Tajikistan. The Ministry of Health accordingly appealed for support to WHO and UNICEF. Owing to these operational activities of these international organizations, the country has received 3, 960 000 doses of vaccine.
“I would like to commend the Ministry of Health of Tajikistan for the transparent and proactive action to inform the WHO Regional Office for Europe, allowing a quick response to the current polio outbreak in Tajikistan”, say Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “With no cure for polio, we are calling for the full support of all sectors of society to ensure that every child under six years of age receives the polio vaccine during this and other immunization campaigns, until the country is polio-free again”.
The campaign starting today is the first in a series of three of vital immunization drives to stop the current outbreak. Experience has shown that a series of swift vaccination campaigns which reach every targeted child will rapidly stop the outbreak. The National Immunization Days against polio will be held throughout Tajikistan in the following three rounds: 4-8 May 2010; 18-22 May 2010 and 1-5 June 2010.
Polio is highly infectious. Our only weapon against polio is the oral polio vaccine.
Every parent and caregiver in the country must ensure that their children under 6 years receive extra doses of OPV during the National Immunization Days to protect them from polio and save lives” say Ayadil Saparbekov, Chief of Health and Nutrition of UNICEF Tajikistan. “Vaccination teams must pay special attention to vulnerable groups of children those who often miss routine immunization – children living in remote, isolated and under-served communities across the country”.
Polio transmits rapidly and travels long distances. Unless this immunization campaign is effective, it could spread to other children across the country, or even into neighbouring countries. One un-immunized child puts every child at risk. Ensuring access to the oral polio vaccine for high-risk children living in remote and geographically isolated areas in the country is key to the success of this immunization activity. Work at sub-national public health levels is ultimately necessary to achieve universal coverage and stop further spread of the polio virus.
The initial campaign in Dushanbe and surrounding districts started on 1 May has already reached out two thirds of the targeted children, which proves the effectiveness of information distributed about the importance of vaccination and safety of polio vaccine. WHO and UNICEF are seeking additional financing to ensure appropriate funds to cover operational support costs.
Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) is safe, effective and the only vaccine recommended by WHO for polio eradication. UNICEF has procured 4 million doses of OPV to vaccinate each child under six at every round of the immunization campaign in Tajikistan. Every additional dose of oral polio vaccine strengthens children’s immunity against polio. Vaccines are procured from manufacturers pre-qualified WHO, which sets international standards for vaccine quality. Vaccines bought from these manufacturers by UNICEF are currently in use all around the world and have already reduced the incidence of wild poliovirus by more than 99%, saving more than 5 million children from permanent paralysis by polio.
Polio eradication is for our common future. The response in Tajikistan is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
As of 3 May 2010, 206 of acute flaccid paralysis have been reported from Tajikistan and out of these, 32 cases are confirmed wild poliovirus type 1 in Tajikistan. Most cases are reported from the south-west of the country, in an area bordering Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The majority of these patients had onset of paralysis within the past 3 weeks.
This is the first imported polio outbreak in the WHO European Region since the Region was certified polio-free in 2002. The last case of clinically confirmed polio in Tajikistan was in 1997. Tajikistan has reported vaccination coverage nationwide as high as 87% in 2008. The cases in Tajikistan have no immediate implications for the European Region’s certification and experience shows that where polio has been stopped before, it can be stopped again.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF. Global polio eradication efforts have reduced the number of polio cases from 350,000 annually in 1988 to less than 2,000 cases in 2005. Four countries remain polio endemic (Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan). However, poliovirus continues to cause outbreaks in previously polio-free countries, particularly where there are pockets of un-immunized children. As long as polio exists anywhere in the world, all children are at risk from polio.
For further information, please contact:
Ministry of Health of Republic of Tajikistan
For further information on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, please visit www.polioeradication.org