NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – The Ministry of Health on Saturday launched an oral polio vaccination campaign targeting six million children below five years in 32 high risk counties.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign in Nakuru, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the exercise is in response to a polio outbreak in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia last year.
“Children below five years of age need to be protected from polio and this is especially so following the outbreak that occurred in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia in 2013/14 resulting in more than 200 cases. The repeated rounds of vaccination that we have been conducting since then, will increase the children’s immunity and enhance the ability to resist the disease should it get imported from our neighbouring countries,” he said.
The campaign will run until Wednesday, August 5.
Macharia has allayed fears that the vaccine is unsafe explaining that it has been tested and approved by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF – bodies that prioritise the health and protection of children.
According to him, it would be absurd for the government to order for vaccination using an unsafe drug.
“The Ministry of Health wishes to assure parents, guardians and all Kenyans that the vaccines used during these polio vaccination campaigns are safe and effective and are the same vaccines used routinely to immunize children in all public, private and faith-based health facilities. All the vaccines used in the country must also undergo rigorous quality control testing procedures by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board which is the body legally mandated to ensure quality, safety and efficacy of all medical products in Kenya,” he explained.
He said the vaccine was being administered after research showed that 66 percent of Kenyan children are at risk of contracting it.
Parents and guardians of children below five years old were urged to ensure their children get vaccinated.
Macharia expressed concerns that there were some faith based organisations opposed to vaccination.
The polio vaccination has sparked debate with parents wondering why the frequency yet the polio outbreak was reported last year.
“There is resistance by some religious groups such as the Kavonokia, Kanitha wa Ngai (Church of God), Yeso Nyalo (Jesus Can), and Dini ya Yesu religious sects. Finally, insecurity in some parts of the country has made it difficult to reach children in these areas,” he complained.
The counties where the vaccination is being conducted are Lamu, Tana river, Kitui, Marsabit, Tharaka Nithi, Nairobi, Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Homabay, Kisii, Kisumu, Migori, Nyamira, Siaya, Baringo, Bomet, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kericho, Nakuru, Nandi, Narok, Kajiado, Samburu, Transnzoia, Turkana, Uasin-Gishu, West Pokot, Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega and Vihiga Counties.