BY: MOHAMED SAHR

In a recent press conference held on Thursday, May 9th, 2024, at the Emergency Operations Centre in Freetown, Dr. Mohamed Alex Vandi, Deputy Executive Director of the National Public Health Agency, announced the detection of the Polio Type II virus in a sewage sample. This outbreak is believed to be linked to Guinea, Conakry, indicating the potential movement of the virus across borders. Dr. Vandi highlighted the urgency of the situation, stating that the presence of the virus in the sewage suggests active shedding by an infected individual.

Sierra Leone, which was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization in 2020, now faces the challenge of containing this outbreak. Dr. Vandi emphasized the collaborative efforts between Sierra Leone and its neighboring countries, including Liberia, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mali, to launch a synchronized vaccination campaign aimed at tackling the Polio Type II outbreak effectively.

The vaccination campaign, targeting 1.5 million children aged 0-57 months in Sierra Leone, will commence with the first dose on Friday, May 10th, 2024, followed by the second dose in June 2024. Dr. Thomas Igbu, representing the World Health Organization, reiterated WHO’s commitment to supporting the response efforts across all affected countries, emphasizing the importance of a coordinated approach to ensure comprehensive vaccination coverage.

UNICEF Sierra Leone’s Social Behavioral Change Lead, Cindy Thai Thien Nghia, emphasized the significance of the synchronized vaccination campaign in strengthening immunization efforts and protecting children under 0-59 months from the Polio Type II virus. UNICEF pledges to deliver 1.8 million doses of the vaccine and continues to collaborate closely with the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Agency to bolster immunization programs and ensure efficient vaccine distribution.

Haja Aminata Charlie, the Focal Person for the Expanded Program on Immunization at the Ministry of Health, outlined the vaccination strategy, emphasizing a house-to-house campaign aimed at achieving 95% immunization coverage nationwide. The primary objective of the campaign is to break the transmission chain of the virus and prevent further spread within communities.

As Sierra Leone mobilizes its resources and partners with international organizations to combat the Polio Type II outbreak, concerted efforts are underway to safeguard the health and well-being of children across the country.

 

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