A national campaign to vaccinate children against polio was launched in Mozambique today in response to the emergence of a case of wild poliovirus in neighbouring Malawi.
According to the national director of public health, Quinhas Fernandes, to reach the target of vaccinating 4.2 million children under the age of five in the first two rounds and subsequently a further 5.1 million, the campaign must go from door to door. However, Fernandes added that this will be supplemented by fixed posts in places such as churches, markets, creches, and camps for internally displaced people.
The first two rounds of the campaign will focus on the provinces of Tete, Manica, Sofala, Zambezia, Niassa, Nampula, and Cabo Delgado, reports the daily newspaper Noticias. The third and fourth rounds will cover the rest of the country.
The campaign will involve 46,000 people including vaccinators, mobilisers, registrars, supervisors, coordinators, data inputters, logistics experts, and independent monitors.
To avoid duplications, children will have the fingernails on their little finger on the left hand marked with indelible ink.
Fernandes stressed that “the logistics team must not rest until the vaccine has reached the most distant points. We have about ten to twelve days to place the vaccine in all the vaccination posts whilst maintaining ideal conditions for its conservation”.
Africa was declared and certified as free of indigenous wild poliovirus in August 2020. However, laboratory analysis has shown that the outbreak in Malawi is linked to a strain that was circulating in Pakistan’s Sindh Province in 2019.
Mozambique was certified free of polio in 2016 following a meeting of the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Poliomyelitis Eradication.
The only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic are Pakistan and Afghanistan. Poliovirus is highly contagious and mainly affects children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis within hours. The virus is transmitted from person to person mainly through faecal matter or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food. While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented by a safe, simple, and effective vaccine.