Uganda wants all Afghan evacuees in the country vaccinated against polio

Uganda wants all Afghan evacuees in the country vaccinated against polio
A child receives a polio vaccination drop during a vaccination campaign

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Ministry of Health (MoH) wants all arriving Afghan refugees in Uganda to be vaccinated against polio irrespective of their age.

Dr Alfred Driwale, the manager Uganda Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI) told journalists on Thursday 26, August 2021 that they have proposed to the technical committee handling the refugees that the visitors should be vaccinated against both type 1 and type 2 strains of the virus irrespective of their age.

The refugees whose first batch of 51 arrived on Wednesday 25th, August 2021 are coming in only a week after the ministry declared polio a public health emergency. In addition to the planned immunization, Dr Immaculate Ampaire, an official in the ministry said that are heightening their environmental surveillance in the areas of Entebbe where the heavily guarded refugees are currently residing.

In their continuous surveillance of the viral disease transmitted through the faecal-oral route just like cholera or dysentery, the Ministry uses two approaches where they do community checks where they look out for acute flaccid paralysis which involves recording and reporting paralyzed children.

The other way is through environmental surveillance where they randomly test stool at selected sewage plants across the country.

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Ampaire says Arua, Kabarole, Kabale and Entebbe also have environmental surveillance sites.

However, ever since the two samples that tested positive for the vaccine deprived Polio Type 2 were identified, no human case has been zeroed on, yet even the World Health Organization (WHO) has tested over a hundred more samples from the areas surrounding Bugolobi and Lubigi environmental surveillance sites from where the virus was detected.

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Since August 2020 when Africa was declared wild polio-free, many countries have seen a resurgence of this vaccine-derived strain mainly affecting children in communities with low immunity levels. 19 countries have had the virus including the neighbouring DRC, South Sudan and Kenya.

Ampaire however explains that their further analysis on the recent positive samples shows the virus has mutated up to 36 times which could mean that the virus has been circulating for up to three years with its closest match picked from South Sudan last year.

Meanwhile, experts say 80% of the people who acquire the polio virus are asymptomatic with just about 1% of the children presenting with paralysis. Of the 1% that get paralysis, symptoms start showing just two weeks after infection.