Zimbabwe starts polio vaccination campaign, targeting 4 mln children

  • World
  • Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024

HARARE, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government, in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization, on Tuesday launched a nationwide polio vaccination campaign targeting about 4 million children under the age of 10.

This follows the government's confirmation of circulating poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) in the country.

"This nationwide campaign, targeting all children under 10 years old, aims to rapidly interrupt virus transmission and prevent further outbreaks. The campaign will utilize the high-quality oral polio vaccines and will be implemented in two phases, reaching an estimated 4 million children across the country during each round," said the Ministry of Health and Child Care in a statement Tuesday.

Minister of Health and Child Care Douglas Mombeshora said the nationwide vaccination campaign demonstrates the Zimbabwean government's unwavering commitment to protecting the health of every child in the country. "The detection of cVDPV2 is a serious concern, but we are prepared to respond swiftly and effectively," he said.

According to the ministry, this is the first time Zimbabwe is using the novel OPV type 2 (nOPV2) vaccine, a critical new and safe tool in the fight against cVDPV2 launched by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 2021. The nOPV2 vaccine has been successfully used in several African countries, including Ethiopia, Benin, Congo Republic, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the ministry said.

Last Friday, Zimbabwean Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Sleiman Kwidini said laboratory tests confirmed the presence of a type 2 circulating poliovirus variant in environmental samples that were collected towards the end of 2023 from some sewage sites in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.

A similar variant was also detected in a 10-year-old child in another province.

In both cases, the virus was a rare type that could occur when the weakened live virus in the oral polio vaccine mutated over time and became able to circulate in the community, he said.

He said the two rounds of polio vaccinations are scheduled for February and March, with the first round taking place between Feb. 20 and March 1, and the second from March 19 to 29.

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