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First Round of Polio Immunization Campaign Kicks Off in Nairobi

© UNICEFKenya/2018/Serem
A child receives the oral polio vaccine during the 2018 Polio Vaccination Campaign in Nairobi, Kenya.

By Joy Wanja Muraya

Children under five years in Nairobi will be immunized against polio in the next three days.

The Ministry of Health is conducting a supplementary polio immunization campaign in Nairobi from 9th to 13th May following the detection of vaccine derived polio virus in the environment.

The Director of Medical Services Dr Jackson Kioko has called for increased awareness to ensure all children in Nairobi receive the life-saving vaccine.

About 1,000 health workers will give the oral polio vaccine to about 800,000 children under five years in Nairobi during this initial immunization phase.

"We need to explain to all caregivers why it is important for their children to get vaccinated against polio,” said Dr Kioko at the launch of the polio awareness stakeholders meeting at Panafric Hotel on Tuesday.

We have activated our response plan to conduct this polio vaccination campaign and to strengthen surveillance, Dr Kioko added.

Dr Kioko further lauded the environmental surveillance team at the Ministry of Health for the detection of the strain of the polio virus within the sewerage system of Nairobi.

“The early detection of the polio virus is proof of the reliability and sensitivity of the country's disease surveillance system to uncover disease causing agents before they cause harm to Kenyans,” said Dr Kioko.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

According to the World Health Organisation, the virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestines, from where it can invade the nervous system.

The lives of two million children globally can be saved each year if they have access to vaccines and factual information on immunization. Closer home, vaccines are guaranteed as a basic right by the constitution and are provided at no cost in Kenya through routine immunizations in health facilities, outreach sites and vaccination campaigns.

© UNICEFKenya/2018/Serem
Director of Medical Services Dr. Jackson Kioko addresses the media and partners during a briefing on the Polio Vaccination Campaign in Nairobi County, Kenya.

In 2017, about 502,860 children in Kenya did not receive vaccines. It is estimated that one out of every three children aged below five years in Kenya today missed their scheduled vaccinations and are at risk of getting diseases that are preventable through immunization.

Health experts estimate that about nine out of every ten who are infected with polio have no symptoms while others have very mild signs that usually go unrecognized.

Some of the initial symptoms of this viral disease include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs.

Dr Kioko emphasized that strong partnership and leadership by various stakeholders would ensure that Kenya continuously works towards achieving a ‘polio free’ status.

He was optimistic that Kenya would soon reclaim the envious position of a country with a high immunization coverage rate.

“We will carry on stronger and end polio in Kenya,” Dr Kioko said optimistically.

According to the Ministry of Health, another 11 counties in Kenya had also been identified to participate in the campaign in June and July this year. All people arriving at the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps and other points of entry will also be screened and given the polio vaccine.

World Health Organisation Representative in Kenya, Dr Rudi Eggers expressed the commitment of the global health body in the prevention and strengthening of immunity against diseases like polio through campaigns, routine immunization and robust surveillance.

UNICEF Kenya’s Deputy Representative, Patrizia DiGiovanni called for the participation of all stakeholders to ensure the success of the campaign.

“We urge everybody to participate in this important polio vaccination campaign. Every parent, every caregiver, every leader has a role to play,” she said noting that Kenya has made tremendous progress to increase the immunization coverage rates.

Polio Immunization Ambassador Harold Kipchumba called for more support for preventive health to protect children from childhood diseases like polio.

“Polio is dehumanizing. Children should not suffer because we are not making the correct decisions. Every child counts, vaccines work,” he said.

The Kenya Medical Association, Kenya Paediatrics Association, Rotary International, Inter-religious Council of Kenya and other stakeholders expressed their support for the polio campaign.



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