Health Ministry begins Polio immunizations
Months after Polio virus found in Rahat sewer system, Health Ministry launches immunization program against disease. Total of 200,000 vaccinations will be delivered Sunday to Tipat Halav baby clinics, 300,000 additional immunizations expected to arrive in coming days
The Health Ministry recently authorized the vaccination program for children up to the age of nine with a weakened-live strain of the Polio virus, with the goal of preventing the spread of the virus in Israel. On Friday, the World Health Organization welcomed the move which it referred to as essential. The full scope of the operation and the locations in which it will take place will be announced by the Health Ministry on Sunday.
The vaccination, which contains two weakened strains of the Polio virus will likely be given in two oral drops to children up to the age of nine – in the past it was given via injection. Children considered to be fully immunized are also expected to get the immunization in order to ensure that they carry the immunity forward into their environments and prevent the transfer of the virus from person to person. A child inoculated to the virus will not suffer from symptoms of the disease, but may serve as a carrier and could secrete it through digestive system, thus infecting others.
Fear of contagious polio virus in central Israel
Children suffering from immune system issues and children who are around those with immune system issues will not be inoculated. This is due to fear that the virus within the immunization might lead to an outbreak.
The World Health Organization supported the Health Ministry’s decision to initiate the immunization program. WHO spokesperson Oliver Rosenbauer told Yedioth Ahronotj that the Health Ministry must immediately begin to vaccinate the public, before infected individuals were found, in order to avoid the spread of the virus in Israel and the world.
Over the past two weeks, the intent to vaccinate children with live cultures has been criticized by infectious disease experts, who said that the weakened virus itself could cause cases of infection. Due to this, some parents are expected to refuse to immunize their children.
Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It is passed from person to person via feces and at times saliva. In most cases of infection, the carrier shows no symptoms, or light symptoms, but in one out of every 200 people infected, the disease attacks the nervous system, causing paralysis.
Since 1988, the WHO has led a program to globally eradicate Polio. The program has succeeded in lowering the incidence from 350,000 cases worldwide, to 233 in 2012. The last outbreak in Israel was in 1988, when 16 people were infected in the Hadera area.
Yaron Kelner contributed to this report
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