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Mass polio immunization gets underway

By Mary Karugaba

Added 23rd January 2016 04:23 PM

Vaccination is one of the key strategies that the Government of Uganda Ministry of Health is implementing in its roadmap to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal four

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Vaccination is one of the key strategies that the Government of Uganda Ministry of Health is implementing in its roadmap to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal four

Mass polio immunization for children under the age of five in 57 high risk districts has kicked off today.

The three day campaign supported by the World Health Organization and UNICEF targets over 7.5 million children and ends on Monday.

According to the Ministry of health spokesperson Rukia Nakamatte, the immunization will be conducted from house to house by a team comprised of one health worker and one local council (LC1) official or VHT member. 

“The objective of the campaign is to vaccinate at least all children under five years of age whether previously immunized or not, with Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) drops in the mouth in the 57 high risk districts,” Nakamatte said in a statement.

The selected districts are, Adjumani, Arua, Buliisa, Busia, Gulu, Isingiro, Kabarole, Kanungu, Kiboga, Kitgum, Kyankwanzi, Agago, Amuru, Bundibugyo, Butaleja, Hoima, Kampala, Kabale, Kasese, Kiryandongo, Koboko, Kyegegwa, Lamwo, Apac, Buikwe, Bugiri, Buvuma, Iganga, Jinja, Kamwenge, Kibaale, Kisoro, Kole, Luwero, Mayuge, Masindi, Lira, Kyenjojo, Maracha, Moyo, Mubende, Yumbe and Zombo.

Nakamatte said the districts were selected based on challenges of low performance in routine immunization, suboptimal polio surveillance indicators, an influx of refugees and massive cross border movements.

“We shall also use this opportunity to sensitize communities on Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance and at the same time identify and investigate any unreported suspected cases of polio,” she said.

Vaccination is one of the key strategies that the Government of Uganda Ministry of Health is implementing in its roadmap to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal four, which is the reduction of child mortality by two thirds.

Currently, the sector has made good progress in child immunization increasing from DPT3 coverage of 52% in 2012 to current coverage of 97%.

Parliament recently passed the Immunization Bill, 2014 that makes immunization compulsory for all children, women of reproductive age and other target groups against immunisable diseases. 

According to the Bill, parents and caretakers who contravene the rule without lawful excuse commit an offence and are liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding sh240,000 or imprisonment for less than six months or both. 

Section 3 (1) of the Bill provides for parents of a child in the age bracket of one day to five years to ensure that the child is immunized. Sub section 3 provides for a medical practitioner to immediately issue to the parent an immunization card which shall be presented by the parent each time the child is due for immunization.

Immunization programs according to the ministry of health currently cover around 70% of eligible children but costs of immunization have been rapidly rising.

Vaccinating a child currently costs around $30. The government funds about 55% of the routine immunization services while external donors contribute a substantial portion of the operations costs. The external funding however is neither guaranteed nor predictable.

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