Malawi Sunday launched a national polio vaccination programme targeting 2.9 million children that are under the age of five regardless of their past vaccination status.
Malawi detected a polio case on February 18 this year, making it the first case of a child reported to have the disease in 30 years.
During the vaccination period, each child is expected to receive four doses, one every month from March to June this year.
Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda called for collaborative efforts, urging traditional and religious leaders to join the campaign so that the country could meet its vaccination target.
She further said the country had intensified surveillance work.
“Let us encourage one another to take to vaccination centres all children who are less than five years old, regardless of whether they already received polio vaccine or not. Let’s get all these children vaccinated against polio,” Kandodo Chiponda said.
World Health Organisation representative Janet Kayita said the organisation was part of the global effort to end polio and had brought into the country international experts.
“They have been here since the first case of polio was first announced as a public health emergency, assisting with a very detailed planning process to enable us to roll out the vaccination effort,” she said.
United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) country representative Rudolf Schwenk said the organisation had secured 6.8 million doses of polio vaccines that were distributed to all the districts of the country.
He said Unicef would support the country throughout the vaccination exercise.
Centre for Disease Control Country Director for Malawi, Kelsey Mirkovic, commended the Malawi Government for the effective surveillance system that enabled the country to detect polio.
“It could not have been possible [to identify the disease] if not for a strong surveillance system,” she said.
Malawi last reported a polio case in 1992. Polio can be transmitted through food and water.
Paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with polio and can lead to permanent disability.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.