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Catholic bishops support polio vaccination campaign

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The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) says it is supporting the Mass Polio Vaccine Campaign set to start on March 20 this year.

This is in support of the government’s declaration of National Public Health Emergency on February 17 this year following the outbreak of Poliomyelitis detected in Traditional Authority Tsabango in Lilongwe.

According to a statement dated March 15 2022, and signed by all the bishops in Malawi, the current outbreak of polio is a setback to the efforts and progress made on eradication of polio in the country.

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The signatories are Archbishop Georg e Tambala of Lilongwe Archdiocese and President of the ECM, Archbishop Thomas Msusa of Blantyre Archdiocese, Bishop Montfort Stima of Mangochi Diocese, Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga Diocese, Bishop John Ryan of Mzuzu Diocese, Bishop Peter Musikuwa of Chikwawa Diocese and Bishop Peter Chifukwa of Dedza Diocese.

“We urge all Catholics and people of goodwill at different leadership levels, including priests, sisters, brothers, parishes, outstations/sub-stations and small Christian communities to encourage parents and guardians to take their children or wards under the age of five to receive the vaccine once the campaign starts,” the statement reads.

The bishops have appealed to Ministry of Health officials to ensure that the vaccine is locally available so that people do not cover long distances.

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“We further encourage traditional and political leaders to join this campaign for a safer Malawi,” the bishops say.

The bishops have said, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and the International Health Regulations, Malawi has put in place response activities to contain the situation in the country, including a nationwide vaccination campaign set to commence on March 21 2022.

Malawi is set to vaccinate approximately 2.9 million children under the age of five.

All children under the age of five are expected to receive four rounds of polio vaccine regardless of prior vaccination status.

The first-round campaign is expected to start from next week while the rest will take place in April, May and June 2022.

The last polio case in Malawi was reported 30 years ago in 1992 and Malawi obtained a polio-free status in 2005 while the WHO African Region received its polio free status certificate in 2020.

Polio is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus and it can be passed from one person to another through ingestion of food or water which is contaminated with the poliovirus, which causes irreversible paralysis mainly in children.

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