Bangladesh plans polio vaccinations for about 24 million children age 5 and under on Saturday in a continuing effort to eliminate the disease, the health ministry said.
After a nearly six-year absence, poliomyelitis resurfaced in Bangladesh last year. The government, with UN help, launched a new series of campaigns against polio in April 2006. About 700,000 volunteers and health workers were set to fan out across country Saturday to vaccinate children in about 140,000 vaccination camps, a health ministry statement said.
Polio vaccine is usually administered orally.
Temporary immunization centres were to be set up at bus and railway stations, and in parks, slums and schools, the ministry said.
The last round of vaccinations was conducted across the country on Dec. 23 last year, when officials inoculated 24 million children in a campaign they said was successful.
The government started its anti-polio drive in April 2006 with the help of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – a partnership comprising UNICEF, Rotary International, the World Health Organization and the U.S . Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the ministry said in its statement on Friday.
UNICEF and WHO helped conduct extensive polio vaccination programs in 1995-2004. In August 2000, the country thought it had seen its last case.
But Bangladesh’s efforts to be declared polio-free were thwarted last year, when the virus left a 9-year-old girl paralyzed in the eastern district of Chandpur.
It was not clear how she became infected, but the same virus has also been found in parts of neighbouring India. Since then, 16 other new cases have been found, the ministry said.
“Our country is not safe, as neighbours India and Pakistan are not polio free. Polio is endemic in India’s Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, so it can easily enter into our country,” health ministry adviser A.S.M. Matiur Rahman was quoted as saying Thursday by the United News of Bangladesh agency.
Another round of vaccinations will start on April 8, Rahman said.
The polio virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. It invades the nervous system and can cause permanent paralysis within hours. It can be fatal in some cases.
About 1,880 people were sickened by polio worldwide in 2005, down from more than 350,000 before 1988, when WHO launched a global anti-polio campaign, WHO said.
Wow! 24 million children and 700, 000 volunteers. What an amazing project to co-ordinate. Let’s hope that India and Pakistan follow suit. The only thing is if Bangladesh has 24 million kids to vaccinate, India has 375 million children on their own and Pakistan probably 100 million. The resources and man power needed to execute such a huge project may be overwhelming for the WHO.