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N'DJAMENA, March 25 (Xinhua) - The Chadian Ministry of Public Health on Saturday launched a massive vaccination campaign against polio across the country.
The campaign, which will last four days, targets 3.3 million children aged 0-59 months.
Chad has not recorded any new cases of polio since June 2012. To permanently eradicate the epidemic, the Chadian government, with the support of its technical and financial partners, introduced a new inactivated vaccine in August 2015 for children from 3 to 11 months.
Chad was certified as a polio-free country on June 30, 2016, but the risk of spreading the virus remains high. The Chadian authorities and partners remain committed to continuing efforts to strengthen the vaccination and epidemiological surveillance program in order to maintain this status.
With the introduction of the inactivated polio vaccine into routine immunization, Chad intends to meet the 2018 global certification.
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are supporting the government of Chad in the procurement and transport of vaccines, the implementation and evaluation of field activities, especially training health workers at community level to promote vaccination among the most vulnerable population.
But with the three new cases that recently emerged in Nigeria in August 2016on what would have been the two-year anniversary of no reported cases in Africa, we are reminded that we must remain vigilant. Many countries face the dual urgent concerns of continuing critical functions to safeguard a polio-free world, such as disease detection and rapid outbreak response, while at the same time reaching overall routine immunization goals as outlined by the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP): 90% national immunization coverage and 80% coverage at district level.
One country that is balancing these tasks of preventing resurgence of polio while strengthening its routine immunization system is Nigeria’s neighbor Chad, who counted its last case of wild polio virus in 2012. Although circulation of the polio virus has been interrupted, Chad remains on high alert and is ever committed to preventing new cases.
As one of the largest countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a widely dispersed population, low literacy rates, ongoing security concerns (especially in the Lake Chad region), and a very weak health system, Chad needs to overcome many challenges to reach GVAP goals. In 2014 national DPT3 coverage was 55%, up from 48% in 2013, indicating improvements in the weak routine immunization program. In order to sustain the immunization rates of Chadian children and help avoid the resurgence of polio and prevent other diseases like measles and maternal and neonatal tetanus, the routine immunization system must be further strengthened.
Since 2013, Chad has revitalized the immunization program through the Reaching Every District Approach and close monitoring of its implementation, using polio assets to support the government in this effort. While more children have been vaccinated, the demand for immunization is still weak. To address this, Chad is currently implementing a promising approach to link health centers to communities by using the same resources that have been successful in combatting polio, complementary to the RED approach.
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