2.4 million children vaccinated against Polio
2.4 million children under five years of age was vaccinated against polio in February 2021, reaching 95 per cent of the target in the national campaign. A polio outbreak in South Sudan was declared on 18 September 2020 and spread to 25 counties in all the states of South Sudan.
Widespread displacement and continual population movements due to ongoing conflict and insecurity, as well as perennial flooding have resulted in low immunization coverage and have exacerbated children’s vulnerability to the type 2 circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, especially those in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. The only way to stop the outbreak is through vaccination.
In response to the current outbreak, the country conducted the first round of the mOPV2 campaign in two phases in 2020 reaching 1.5 million children aged 0 – 59 months in November 2020 and 1.1 million in December 2020.
From 16 to 19 Feb 2021 a second round of the national vaccination campaign was conducted, targeting 74 counties, as 6 counties in Western Equatoria completed two rounds in 2020.
To stop the outbreak and prevent further spread, the Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and partners are enhancing surveillance with emphasis placed on both community and health facility case search for children that may have developed sudden paralysis of the limbs, along with strengthening investigation and timely transportation of samples to the laboratory.
Routine immunization coverage is at 57 per cent in South Sudan, which is too low to realize every child's right to health. Routine immunization of all children, including polio vaccination, must be a top priority for everyone in the health sector if we are to reduce child mortality in South Sudan. In addition to battling the polio outbreak, South Sudan is also fighting an outbreak of measles since January 2019, new outbreaks continue to be reported.
UNICEF is responding to the outbreaks in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, WHO and health partners, procuring vaccines, providing medical supplies and cold chain and training health workers. This would not have been possible without the generous support from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and GAVI the Vaccine Alliance.