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Polio still a threat to children’s health

World Polio Day reminds us that no child anywhere should suffer from this completely vaccine-preventable disease. It recognises the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) established in 1988 to eradicate polio.
The day is marked annually on October 24 to raise public awareness of polio control and ensure that all children can be immunised.

The Rotarians administer polio drops to children in Laos.

The GPEI includes national governments and five partners: the World Health Organisation, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation working hand in hand to achieve the vision of a polio-free world.
Millions of Rotarians have committed over US$1.6 billion to the polio eradication effort, and at the recent Rotary Convention in Atlanta, in the United States in June this year, Rotary International pledged another US$1.2 billion to the GPEI during an event attended by 32,000 Rotarians from around the world.
Deputy Manager of the National Centre for Maternal and Child Health’s Expanded Programme of Immunisation in Laos, Dr Kongxay Phounphenghack, told Vientiane Times this week that at least 170,000 children nationwide under the age of one receive polio vaccine drops and polio vaccinations each year. Each child receives three polio vaccine doses of drops and one shot.
Last year, a polio outbreak occurred in Vientiane province, encouraging Japanese Rotarian District 2650 to visit the area in support of polio control.
The virus has not been detected in Laos since January 11, 2016, thanks to the continued efforts of health workers and donors who continue to support preventive activities.
Medical staffers continue to raise public awareness of polio control to make sure that all samples of suspected polio infection taken from children are tested in a lab. 
But Dr Kongsay said some children don’t get their vaccinations because their parents take them with them when they go out to work on their farms, so they miss out when staff working for the Expanded Programme of Immunisation arrive in their neighbourhood. And some parents won’t allow their children to be vaccinated.
“These are challenges that we need to solve as soon as possible,” he said.
Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines. Polio can be prevented through immunisation. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunising every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.
Today, there are only three countries that have never stopped transmission of the wild poliovirus: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Just 37 polio cases were confirmed worldwide in 2016, which is a reduction of more than 99.9 percent since the 1980s, when the world saw about 1,000 cases a day.
The main challenge of polio control is the cases represented by the remaining one percent, which are the most difficult to prevent, due to factors including geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict and cultural barriers.
Until polio is eradicated, all countries remain at risk of outbreaks.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update October 28, 2017)

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