WHY POLIO VACCINATION IS GIVEN MULTIPLE TIMES TO KENYAN CHILDREN UNDER FIVE

Again! is the remark Kenyan parents are making after the Ministry of Health in partnership with UNICEF and Core Group Polio Project announced another round of Polio Vaccination campaign? Kenyan children have received at least six separate doses of Polio Vaccine since 2018.

The last reported cases of Polio in Kenya were in 2013 when Somalia had an outbreak of the Wild Polio Virus that got its way into the country. The Polio Virus-infected and paralyzed 14 people in Garissa County and lead to 2 deaths.

The repeated Polio Vaccination is an effort by the Ministry of Health to keep Kenya Polio free because of the risk posed at the porous borders of Somalia, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

Why Kenya is at Risk of a Polio Outbreak

 

Kenya has almost declared a Polio free country in 2018; the process was halted when live Polio Viruses were detected in a sewage sample taken by the Kenya Medical research institute in March 2018.

Polio Type 2 Virus was found in the environmental sewage sample from East Leigh, Kamukunji County. This strain of Polio Virus is closely linked to the strain found in October and November 2017 and January 2018, in the province of Banadir and Mogadishu in Somalia.

In The Twenty-Second IHR Meeting regarding the international spread of Polio, Somalia and Ethiopia were named as countries that have a potential risk of spreading Polio due to the detection of Vaccine-Detected Polio Virus type 2(cVDPV2). The most recent detection in Somalia was 8th May 2019, and Ethiopia was 22nd July 2019.

Your child is at risk of being exposed to the Polio Virus because Kenya allows free movement across the borders with wanting screening procedures, and the acceptance of refugees to live in Kenya from these countries.

Why Polio is a deadly Disease

 

Polio, also known as Poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious illness that has no cure. It is transmitted through person-to-person contact, mainly by the oral-faecal route. Infected saliva and respiratory system secretions are a close second method of transmission.

You are at high risk of exposure if you live near areas with poor water and sewage sanitation.

At the onset of the disease, most people do not show any symptoms; those that experience symptoms will complain of fever, muscle pain, vomiting, stiff neck, and fatigue. The Virus progressively attacks the Central Nervous System, causing paralysis of the legs, commonly referred to as having floppy limbs. On rare occasions, it affects the four limbs.

Why Multiple Polio Vaccination?

 

The Oral Polio Vaccine works by preventing your child from contracting the Polio Virus, it also prevents them from carrying the Polio Virus in their intestines and further spreading it through faecal matter.

Multiple doses need to be given with spacing to:

*Build sufficient immunity. Each additional dose further strengthens your child’s immunity. The repeat dose is more important in regions where poor nutrition is a common problem as this can lead to weak natural immunity.

*Interrupts the virus transmission path that cannot be done by giving only one or two doses.

*Ensures your child is fully protected

There is no risk of overdose when your child is adequately protected and receives another dose during the campaign. There is also minimal risks of side effects from the Polio Vaccine.

Conclusion

Kenya is still at high risk of recording new cases of Polio because of its proximity to countries that report the detection of cVDPV2 in their environmental samples. Polio being a highly contagious disease and causing lifelong paralysis, Kenya is on a mission to eradicate the Virus as other countries have done. Repeated Polio Vaccination is one of the main ways this can be achieved. Allowing your child to be vaccinated is the best way you can contribute to making Kenya a Polio free country.

Jane Kariuki has written this article. Jane is one of the members of MeMA, trained in Clinical Medicine and Counselling Psychology


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