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NAIROBI, April 1 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's health ministry on Saturday launched a five-day polio vaccination campaign targeting over 4.5 million children below the age of five, in 22 high risk counties.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu, who launched the exercise in Nairobi, said the campaign will be conducted to ensure all children are protected against the deadly disease.
He said vaccination teams will move from house to house to vaccinate all children under five years and designated areas such as like schools, churches and transit points to ensure that no eligible child is missed.
"Those seeking treatment in health facilities for other disease conditions will also receive the vaccine," Mailu said.
The last polio outbreak in Kenya occurred three years ago and was reported in Rongo, Migori county. Three years prior to the outbreak, a wild polio virus outbreak paralyzed 14 people and killed two others in the present Garissa and Turkana Counties.
The detection of polio cases in Nigeria last year poses a risk to Kenya owing to the significant population movement between the two countries.
Head of the Department of Preventive and Promotive Health Services, Dr. David Soti, has urged parents, guardians and communities in the targeted Counties to ensure that all children below five years receive the polio vaccine.
"The vaccines that will be used during this polio vaccination campaign are the same ones used in our routine immunization program in all public, private and faith-based health facilities. Additionally, the vaccines have been evaluated by the National Quality Control Laboratory and found to be safe," Soti said.
According to Soti Kenya has not had an indigenous case of polio since 1984 although the fight to remain polio-free had been hampered by importations from other countries.
Kenya will continue to guard its polio-free status by strengthening routine immunization, conducting high quality polio vaccination campaigns and sustaining a robust surveillance system, he said.
"Children below five years are particularly vulnerable to diseases because their immunity is not yet fully developed to fight the diseases. Polio is one of the serious vaccine preventable diseases because not only does it cause paralysis and disability but it can also kill," he noted.
Polio is the second disease being targeted for total eradication in Kenya, after Small Pox was declared eradicated in 1980.
Due to the concerted global effort to eradicate polio, the cases have decreased significantly by over 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then, to only 35 polio cases in 2016.
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