02 November 2023

Fighting polio vaccine misinformation

Since 1988, the number of children affected by polio has reduced by 99 per cent. While the end of polio is within reach, immunization efforts can easily be derailed by the rapid spread of vaccine misinformation, putting vulnerable children at risk.  Take for example Pakistan, one of just two countries where polio remains endemic, where fake videos…, The polio ‘listening post’, “Social listening is like a disease surveillance system, but instead of the virus, we track and analyze polio misinformation. Using cutting-edge digital media and tools we collect and analyze publicly available data on polio and vaccines across social media, digital media, broadcast news and print media platforms,” says Adnan Shahzad, the Digital…, Clear and accurate messaging, “What we say must be accurate and easy to understand for everyone,” says Soterine Tsanga, Polio Outbreak Response SBC specialist with UNICEF, who is also involved in the roll out of DCE to countries. “When there’s a polio outbreak, our goal is to respond swiftly to reach children with vaccination and stop further spread of the virus. We cannot…, Examples of accurate polio vaccine messaging created for digital sharing., UNICEF A photo of a mother holding her baby paired with text stating that vaccinations are the best way to fight polio. Polio vaccination messaging - Digital Community Engagement, Examples of accurate polio vaccine messaging created for digital sharing., UNICEF Graphic showing a smiling child next to text accurate messaging on polio Digital Community Engagement social media graphic - Polio paralysis, Examples of accurate polio vaccine messaging created for digital sharing., UNICEF A graphic shows a young girl in a yellow shit next to positive messaging on polio. Digital Community Engagement social media graphic - Polio WHO, Examples of accurate polio vaccine messaging created for digital sharing., UNICEF A polio awareness graphic showing facts, cartoon droplets, and a photo of a young child. Polio vaccination social campaign content. UNICEF, Examples of accurate polio vaccine messaging created for digital sharing., UNICEF A green cut-out style graphic showing a photo of a child receiving a vaccination alongside accurate information about vaccine safety. Polio vaccine information social graphic DCE, UNICEF., Examples of accurate polio vaccine messaging created for digital sharing., UNICEF A graphic shows a photo of a child next to text that states the benefits of vaccination. A photo of a mother holding her baby paired with text stating that vaccinations are the best way to fight polio. Graphic showing a smiling child next to text accurate messaging on polio A graphic shows a young girl in a yellow shit next to positive…, Digital volunteers quash rumours, Mariama, a digital social mobilizer in Dakar, looks at her phone and laptop screens. Mariama, a 20 years old digital social mobilizer working with UNICEF in Dakar, shares polio information, tracks misinformation, and responds to questions about polio. A big part of UNICEF’s social behaviour change work for polio eradication involves engaging local…, Local outreach and digital engagement, Digital Community Engagement enables countries to bridge the gap between their on-the-groundwork and digital communities, while fostering trust in childhood immunization. Pakistan’s polio eradication programme has managed several misinformation crises. In October 2022, a Facebook post falsely claimed that a child had died after receiving the polio…, More opportunities ahead, While there has been tremendous progress in getting the social listening and misinformation alert systems up and running, there is always more to do. DCE is now focused on strengthening local misinformation response teams while continuing to engage online communities through digital volunteers.  For Gulzar Ahmed Khan, a 28-year-old polio social…
19 October 2022

A polio vaccination campaign is protecting millions of children in Malawi

The global marathon to eradicate polio is on its final lap. After millennia of living with poliovirus and the suffering the paralysis causes, today, nearly everyone lives in a polio-free country.  Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, the number of people afflicted with polio has declined by 99.9%. The finishing line…, To succeed in eradicating polio, we must act now. , The coming five years are crucial – they may provide the last opportunity to eradicate the disease. Cases of polio have been recently reemerging worldwide, including in Malawi. There are a number of factors behind those outbreaks, including conflict and displacement, and the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to vaccine…, Protecting children from a polio outbreak in Malawi, Over the past few decades, Malawi has illustrated the incredible strides that have been made. Until November 2021, the nation had gone three decades without a recorded case of wild polio. But during that month, a 3-year-old child, living in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe, was diagnosed with wild polio. The virus affected the nerve cells in her spinal…, Millions of children in Malawi have been protected from polio, Since the vaccination drive began, about 9 million children in Malawi have received a polio vaccination. Much of the credit for that response lies in the hands of health care workers. Health surveillance assistants Dessie Chisangwi (left) and Matilda Mlumpwa (right) are helping to lead the door-to-door polio vaccine campaign. Health surveillance…, How technology is playing an important role in this polio eradication campaign, A successful immunization campaign requires knowing which communities have low vaccination rates. To help with that data collection, a smartphone app called Rapid Pro is being used. Health care workers are able to track things like how many children were or weren’t vaccinated against polio in a household and how many vaccinations were administered…, The addition of cold storage facilities has been essential, In addition to expanding the availability of phone technology and supplying the polio vaccines, UNICEF has also installed 270 new vaccine refrigerators in Malawi. That’s helped to support cold chain technicians like Joackim Ghambi. He works in the Zomba district office in the southern part of the country.  Scenes from inside a vaccine cold storage…, On the frontline, protecting children from polio, As the polio vaccines reach communities across Malawi, they’re then in the hands of health workers like Beza Belayneh. He’s a consultant with the World Health Organization and originally from Ethiopia. He’s been working in Malawi for a number of years now and is stationed at St. Joseph’s Hospital, just west of the city of Blantyre.   Beza Belayneh…, These are the caregivers that are protecting their children, Tionge Wittika is among the caregivers protecting their child from polio. She brought her 4-month-old daughter to St. Joseph’s Hospital to get the vaccine.   Tionge Wittika holds her daughter Arianna after she received her dose of the oral polio vaccine. Tionge Wittika holds her daughter Arianna after she received her dose of the oral polio…, To prevent further outbreaks, more bold action is needed, The fact is there is no cure for polio. As long as the disease exists, it’s a threat to children everywhere. But as this campaign in Malawi shows, there is a way to help prevent it. That’s by making sure that all children, wherever they are in the world, have access to the polio vaccine.   As a global community, we are so close to achieving a…
07 July 2022

How Tajikistan responded rapidly to a polio outbreak

For the first time in decades, we’re witnessing a large sustained backslide in the number of children receiving routine immunizations. In many ways, that’s attributable to pandemic disruptions, but there are other factors at play, including conflict, displacement and increasing vaccine misinformation.  The consequences of this global backslide are…, Tajikistan is one of the countries UNICEF is focusing on, The mountainous nation borders China to its east and Afghanistan to the south. Tajikistan went a decade without a case of polio emerging but that changed at the beginning of 2021, when the first case of paralysis from polio was detected. In the months following, 34 children were paralyzed.   UNICEF, as a partner of the Global Polio Eradication…, A second set of twins are protected, Fotima and Zuhro aren’t the only twins to have been vaccinated against polio. There’s also 6-year-old Magfirat and her sister Maifat. Wearing matching dresses, and with a shared passion for creative endeavors, it’s in some ways hard to tell them apart.   Magfirat and Marifat are photographed with their grandmother, Shamsiya Muzafarova. Magfirat…, Community health centers and health workers have led the vaccine drive, Community health centers in Tajikistan have played an important role in increasing the rate of immunization in the country among children.   That includes the Dushanbe Health Center, situated close to the bank of the Varzob river, which runs directly through the nation’s capital, Dushanbe.   6-year-old Muso Ahliddinzoda gets vaccinated with his…, How the COVID-19 pandemic presented an additional challenge , Because of COVID-19, health workers at the Dushanbe Health Center had to rethink how exactly they provided healthcare while keeping everyone safe.   “During the pandemic we divided the clinic into two parts,” says health worker Sayohat Mamadjonova. “A red zone for those who came for immunization and had a fever or COVID-19 symptoms. The other part…, The results of Tajikistan's vaccination campaign are clear, Thanks to the hard work of these health workers, the willingness of so many caregivers to get their children vaccinated, and the efforts of UNICEF alongside its partners, in addition to the Tajikistan government, the future now looks brighter. As of April 2022, the World Health Organization declared that polio is no longer circulating in the…
25 May 2022

The effort to eradicate polio globally faces new challenges

27 May 2022 Extraordinary advances have been made in the effort to eradicate wild polio in just a generation. The number of children paralyzed by the virus has decreased by 99 per cent since 1988.   There is no cure for polio. It can only be prevented. That prevention comes from a vaccine, which can protect a child for life. And still to this day…, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last countries where polio remains endemic. Beginning with Pakistan, where do things stand in terms of the effort to eradicate wild polio there?   , Pakistan saw a landmark achievement earlier this year. In January, the country went an entire year without detection of a single case of wild polio. It was a significant milestone in the nation’s effort to eradicate the disease.  But the fight is certainly not over. In April and May, there were four confirmed cases of wild polio, in what’s a…, In Afghanistan, the country’s health systems have been on the brink of collapse. What does that mean when it comes to protecting children from polio?  , Over the past year, the situation for children in Afghanistan has become even more desperate. Conflict, drought and the pandemic have collided to create an unprecedented humanitarian emergency. The country’s health systems are collapsing under that strain. That’s putting millions of children at high risk of polio and other potentially deadly…, Africa was declared free of wild polio in 2020 after Nigeria achieved zero wild polio cases. But some cases of wild polio are now emerging on the continent again. What’s happening?  , Late last year, a case of wild polio was detected in a girl in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. The virus has affected the nerve cells in her spinal cord, and consequently her ability to walk. It’s the first case of wild polio in Africa in five years, and the first case of wild polio in Malawi in more than three decades.   Months later, in May, a case…, Wild polio isn’t the only concern. There’s a variant, which has been driving cases globally. What is this variant and how concerning is it?   , That’s right, there has been a rise in polio variants. It’s important to note that the world has been gaining a lot of ground in the effort to eradicate the wild polio virus. But at the same time, we’re seeing a rise in what’s called circulating vaccine derived polio outbreaks. These are non-wild variants of the polio virus. In the past three…, It seems like we’re in a precarious position and at a pivotal moment. Advances continue to be made to eradicate polio, but clearly there are still real concerns. What’s UNICEF doing to respond?  , The vast majority of countries in the world are free of polio. But as long as the polio virus exists, anywhere, no child in the world is safe from this debilitating disease. The virus knows no borders. And the recent emergence of polio outbreaks proves that. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative predicts that if polio isn’t eradicated imminently…