By Binta S. Jawo
The Ministry of Health (MoH) is set to conclude its Polio vaccination campaign tomorrow, 22nd March 2022. Last week the Ministry launched its vaccination campaign during a press briefing held on Wednesday 16th March 2022 at the Central Medical Store in Kotu. The campaign started on Saturday 19th March 2022 and is scheduled to end on Tuesday 22nd March 2022.
Programs Manager of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), Mr Sidat Fofana delivered the opening statement and thanked the Media for the tremendous role they play in disseminating information, especially during vaccination campaigns. Mr Fofana noted that the vaccination targets children under the age of 5 years and combats paralysis in children.
The Coordinator of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in the Gambia Dr Iheoma Onuekwasi delivered a statement on behalf of the partners. Dr Onuekwasi presented a brief history of the global eradication initiative launched in 1988. She highlighted that Polio causes paralysis and death in children.
From her recollection, Dr Onuekwasi noted that from 1988 to date 5 of the 6 WHO regions have been certified Polio-free but the aim is the complete eradication of Polio in the world. Africa received its certificate in August 2020, unfortunately, the continent still experiences occasional Polio outbreaks. The Gambia and 26 other countries have been identified as experiencing Polio outbreaks.
According to Dr Onuekwasi, one way to respond to Polio outbreaks is by conducting immunization campaigns, increasing sensitivity in surveillance systems and improving routine immunization.
MoH’s Director of Health Promotion and Education, Mr Modou Njai underlined the efforts of stakeholders that supported their previous vaccination campaigns and are also counting on their usual cooperation. Mr Njai encouraged people to use the 1025 hotline in case of any emergency such as a child being left out of the vaccination campaign or instances where a child is reacting negatively towards a vaccination. Mr Njai stressed that the vaccine is safe and effective and approved by WHO and its partners.
Senior Program Officer and Communication Director at the EPI, Madam Aja Kandeh delivered a presentation on the previous Polio vaccination campaign conducted in November 2021. She revealed that in November Western 1 and 2 registered the lowest vaccination coverage even though they are the most populated region in The Gambia. She highlighted that their project aims to reach children in every household, school, Quranic School, health facility, border and ferry crossing points across the country. She noted that the vaccination campaign targets a total of 382,908 children nationwide to be vaccinated between the ages of 0-59 months.
Aja Kandeh delivering a presentation (c) Binta S Jawo