, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 20 – Thirteen new cases of polio have been detected in the country despite two nationwide vaccination exercises that were carried out at the beginning of the year.
Director of Public Health, Dr Shahnaaz Sharif said on Wednesday that the new cases were reported in Turkana District, and blamed it on poor routine polio immunisation.
While saying that the government had set aside over Sh61 million to carry out the third phase of a polio vaccination exercise next week, he outlined measures put in place to ensure this immunisation drive is carried out successfully.
“Independent monitors will go to houses and check if the child has been immunised. We will mark the house and make sure that the children who have been immunised have their fingers dipped in ink which cannot be removed,” he stated.
World Heath Organisation (WHO) Immunisation Advisor Dahir Duale also called for a concerted effort to guard children against Polio.
“The threat of polio is still there and the only time we can afford to relax is when all our children have been vaccinated with at least three doses of oral polio vaccine,” he emphasised.
“We appeal to ministry officials to double their efforts to make sure that all our children get their routine vaccination doses.”
The public health director said that the five-day immunisation exercise will target all children under the age of five years in all districts countrywide.
He stressed the need for key players in the medical sector to redouble their efforts in controlling the virus through sensitisation exercises.
“Routine immunisation is much cheaper. With this amount of money, we could be actually buying all the vaccines which are required for nine months. So we are spending money on campaigns while we should be using this money in immunisation,” he explained.
Speaking at the same time, UNICEF Chief of Health Sanjiv Kumar outlined some key challenges that the immunisation exercise faces.
“There are 300,000 Kenyan children who are not reached with routine immunisation and these are the children who are most at risk when any virus is introduced from outside like polio,” Mr Kumar stated. “We need to ensure that we know where these children who are not being reached are.”
Mr Kumar said that immunisation is one of the most successful public health interventions.
He underscored the fact that the present outbreak of polio in the country since February this year was worrying and could undo the gains that Kenya has made in the last two decades.
He said that the greatest challenge in immunisation in Kenya is how to reach every child during routine immunisation.
He stressed the need for every Kenyan to be actively involved in reversing this trend so as to reduce the rate of infection.
Mr Kumar further pointed out that many obstacles needed to be overcome in an effort to bring immunisation to children living in the hard to reach communities.