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Second round of polio immunization campaign under way in Tajikistan

© UNICEF Tajikistan/2010/Sodiqov
A young girl receives the life-saving oral polio vaccine in Tajikistan's Panjakent district.

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, 19 May 2010 – The second five-day round of a national polio immunization campaign started yesterday in Tajikistan. Its aim: to stop a polio outbreak across the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are supporting the immunization drive organized by the Ministry of Health. Results from the first round of the campaign show that it reached more than 1.1 million children, or over 99 per cent of children in the target group.

The third round of polio immunization will be held from 1 to 5 June. To stop the polio outbreak, it is essential for all children under the age of six to be vaccinated in each of the three rounds.

© UNICEF Tajikistan/2010/Sodiqov
A baby is vaccinated against polio in a small village high in the mountains of northern Tajikistan.

‘Ethical responsibility’

“It is the professional and ethical responsibility of all health-care workers to ensure that at all rounds, all children under six will be correctly vaccinated, so that the situation can be stabilized” said the Minister of Health, Dr. Nusratullo Salimov. “Anything that will lead to children under six not being vaccinated will undermine our efforts to stop polio as soon as possible”.

Young children are at the highest risk of polio and are the primary transmitters of the polio virus in the community. The Ministry of Health is carefully monitoring the evolution of the polio outbreak in Tajikistan with the support of international partners.

“Every dose of vaccine counts. Additional doses of oral polio vaccine will strengthen children’s immunity against polio,” said WHO’s Head of Country Office in Tajikistan, Dr. Santino Severoni. “This is why every child under six must be immunized at least three times to stop the transmission of the virus. Every missed child is a place for the poliovirus to hide”.

© UNICEF Tajikistan/2010/Sodiqov
A young boy is vaccinated against polio in a small mountain village in northern Tajikistan.

Health experts note that oral polio vaccine is safe and effective, and has already reduced the number of polio cases by more than 99 per cent worldwide.

“There has been a tremendous effort to immunize children in isolated, hard-to-reach communities,” said UNICEF Tajikistan Officer-in-Charge Siyma Barkin Kuzmin. “Together, we need to make sure that this second round is even more far reaching.”

Vaccinating every child

During the National Immunization Days here, children can be vaccinated free of charge at immunization points located in hospitals, local health centres and other ad hoc dedicated areas, such as schools or kindergartens.

© UNICEF Tajikistan/2010/Sodiqov
A mother brings her five-year old son to receive oral polio vaccine at an immunization post in Tajikistan's Panjakent district.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to make sure that all children – including those living in remote, isolated and under-served communities –are vaccinated in every round, especially in case they missed the first vaccination. Local health personnel are to be alerted in cases where some children are missed.

Ministry of Health teams, supported by WHO and UNICEF, are travelling across the country to monitor the immunization campaign and to investigate possible spread of the polio virus. Reports from the field indicate that the population has a good understanding of the emergency and of the need to protect their children from the disease by triple vaccination.

Health professionals, advocacy materials and television broadcasts are spreading immunization message. In particular, solid support from the media is critical to ensuring parental awareness and involvement.



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