Children at risk of Polio in Kenya

Ministry of Health, UNICEF and WHO launch critical Polio Vaccination Campaign

08 May 2018
A child is given the polio vaccine

NAIROBI, Kenya, 8 May 2018 — The Ministry of Health (MoH), in collaboration with partners, plans to conduct a polio vaccination campaign in Nairobi County. The campaign scheduled from 9 -13 May 2018 will target an estimated 800,000 children under the age of five years with the oral polio vaccine (OPV).

The upcoming May campaign will be conducted through house-to-house visits by vaccination teams who will administer OPV for children under five. Subsequent rounds will be conducted in high-risk counties between June and July to ensure maximum protection.

On 6 April 2018, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) laboratory notified the MoH of a poliovirus in the sewage in Kamukunji sub-county, in Nairobi. This poliovirus was detected in an environmental sample collected on 21 March 2018 as part of routine surveillance activities by MoH.

The positive environmental sewage sample indicates a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) in the community, which places everyone at risk of contracting polio. 

Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus is a very rare strain of the poliovirus. When communities are under-immunized against polio, the virus strain contained within the oral polio vaccine can mutate and spread, causing polio paralysis.

In these rarely occurring circumstances, the cVDPV can be stopped with 2–3 rounds of immunization campaigns that cover at least 90 per cent of the targeted children under the age of five years.

The solution is the same for all polio outbreaks: immunize every child during every campaign and complete the full routine immunization schedule to improve all child immunity in this community to stop poliovirus circulation.

To respond to this outbreak, the Ministry of Health, has intensified surveillance activities to detect any circulation of poliovirus and is conducting polio vaccination campaigns to help boost child immunity against polio.

The polio vaccine has been certified as safe and effective by the World Health Organization. Vaccinators and monitors, social mobilizers along with religious leaders, polio champions and others have been trained and deployed to ensure wide community support and participation.

Kenya has been free of any wild poliovirus (WPV) circulation since 2014. However, Kenya and the Horn of Africa Region continues to be at higher risk of polio due to low immunization coverage magnified with population movement.

Polio is a highly infectious, debilitating disease which affects children and causes permanent paralysis. Polio is not curable, and can only be prevented by vaccination.

Families and communities must ensure their children are vaccinated both during polio campaigns and through routine immunization.

Media Contacts

Dan Oloo

Communication Specialist


Tel: +254 722 416 551


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