Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Today, South Sudan launched a nationwide polio campaign aiming at vaccinating 3.1 million children using the novel oral polio vaccine type 2.

The novel oral polio vaccine type 2 has been designed to provide safe and reliable protection against poliovirus and is genetically more stable than the previous oral polio vaccine types. This means that it has the potential to be a game-changer in preventing new outbreaks of type 2 circulating variant-polio viruses (cVDPV2).

Currently, three variant poliovirus cases have been confirmed in three of the ten states of South Sudan: Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria, and Upper Nile. The reported cases are children under five years of age. Unlike previous poliovirus outbreaks, the affected children have not received polio vaccinations.

To halt the outbreak and prevent its further spread, the Ministry of Health, with support from WHO, UNICEF, and other partners, has established an emergency response task force to coordinate the response, while increasing surveillance efforts. The campaign will target all children under 5 years of age in all the ten states and the three administrative areas of the country. Currently, social mobilizers are engaging the communities and key stakeholders to increase awareness of immunization and participation in the week-long campaign.

“We need to act quickly to prevent this outbreak from causing harm to more children,” said Hon. Awut Deng Acuil, Minister of General Education and Instruction/ Representing the Minister of Health, “to make this vaccination campaign a success, I would like to urge all parents, caregivers, families, religious groups, and communities to ensure that all children under the age of 5 years are vaccinated against polio during this campaign, any child missed during the campaign is considered a risk for future outbreaks that my ministry does not wish to see again.”

In South Sudan, it is estimated that 33% of the children have not received vaccination against poliovirus type 2. The country’s immunization coverage has been impacted by population movements and displacement, making it harder to reach the children who need vaccinations the most.

“Polio, a preventable disease, should not afflict any child anywhere,” said Dr Humphrey Karamagi, WHO Representative for South Sudan. “Thanks to the generous funding from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partnership, the campaign provides a more significant opportunity for vulnerable populations to receive critical interventions that could avert life-threatening diseases, such as poliomyelitis-induced disability.”

“This nationwide campaign marks a pivotal moment in our continued efforts to combat polio in South Sudan. By leveraging the vaccine, designed for enhanced efficacy against poliovirus, we can fortify our defenses and curtail the spread of viruses. UNICEF remains committed to bolstering immunization strategies alongside our dedicated health partners and the Ministry of Health, ensuring equitable access to vaccination for all children and safeguarding communities against the threat of polio,” said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF South Sudan Representative.

About circulating variant poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2)

Circulating Variant Poliovirus Type 2 cases can occur when the weakened live virus in the oral polio vaccine spreads among people who are not immunized and later mutates. This form of the virus can cause paralysis. To prevent this, all children must get the oral polio vaccine whenever it is offered. Getting multiple doses of the vaccine will protect against both wild and circulating variant polioviruses.

Currently, paralytic polio infections are being reported in multiple African countries, including Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Zambia and South Sudan.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – South Sudan.

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