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Polio vaccination faces personnel shortage

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George Jobe

By Wezzie Gausi

The Ministry of Health has no adequate personnel to successfully vaccinate 2.9 million children against polio in four days, The Daily Times has learnt.

The campaign is slated for March 21 to 24 this year following a polio case that was detected in Traditional Authority Tsabango in Lilongwe.

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A senior officer in the Ministry of Health disclosed that the ministry has 10,000 Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) who are supposed to carry out the vaccination exercise across the country.

“Therefore, vaccinating 2.9 million children in four days would translate into vaccinating about 750,000 children per day, which is a tall order when the ministry is failing to vaccinate 5,000 people a day in other vaccination programmes,” the source said.

The issue of shortage of personnel to handle the polio vaccination exercise was also raised at the State House on Wednesday when Ministry of Health’s Head of Malawi’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation Mike Chisema told President Lazarus Chakwera that human resource was one of the challenges facing the campaign as the same personnel is also involved in other competing issues like floods, Covid and HIV and Aids and tuberculosis.

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Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director George Jobe said the four-day campaign targeting 2.9 million children was a huge task.

“This is really a huge challenge ahead of us but the country is in an emergency. If things get worse, let the HSAs have camps where they could be lodging in a bid to meet the target in the said days,” Jobe said.

However, National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi President Shouts Simeza said the country had many trained medical people who could help in the campaign.

“What some people inside the ministry are saying is true. However, the vaccination can also be done by all qualified medical people apart from HSAs. The government should just get people that are not working but are qualified and give them an offer to help,” Simeza said.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said the ministry would map the best way forward.

“The ministry will be looking into the issue and finding the possible solution before the campaign starts,” Chikumbe said.

Last year, the Ministry of Health vaccinated at least 1.8 million under-five children for a catch-up polio vaccine exercise that ran from July 12 to 16 2021.

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