Monday April 21 2014

Govt changes polio vaccine

A baby receives oral polio vaccine in Kampala

A baby receives oral polio vaccine in Kampala recently. The Health ministry has reverted to injectable polio vaccine. PHOTO BY Stephen Otage  


The government will next year introduce injectable polio vaccine for children to substitute orally-administered ones, a senior Health ministry official said yesterday.

Uganda National Expanded Programmme on Immunisation head Dr Robert Mayanja said the change, which is a reversion to the 1980s approach, is in fulfillment of new World Health Organisation strategy to eliminate polio by 2018.

The government is prepared to roll out the injectable vaccine by January 2015, he said.
Uganda and some of its neighbouring countries, according to WHO, are at risk of polio more prevalent in countries where health systems are broken down.

Ministry of Health permanent secretary Asuman Lukwago said the reversion follows findings that because the oral vaccine has live polio virus, people with weak immunities instead got exposed to polio rather than protected --- what health workers call vaccine-derived polio.

The new injectable vaccine called Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), consists of inactivated or killed poliovirus strains, according to Dr Mayanja.

WHO says polio-free countries are already using IPV because the risk of paralytic polio associated with continued use of oral polio vaccine is deemed greater than the risk of imported wild virus.

“As IPV is not a ‘live’ vaccine, it carries no risk of vaccine-associated polio paralysis, and it also triggers an excellent protective immune response in most people compared to oral vaccine,” said Dr Mayanja. The ministry plans to continue administering oral polio vaccines until it supplies the whole country with the injectable version.

According to an online medical and vaccine report, Uganda eradicated polio roughly a decade ago, but it remains in the “wild poliovirus importation belt” – stretching from west through central to the Horn of Africa, which face recurrent polio virus infections originating from northern Nigeria.
Dr Mayanja spoke to the Daily Monitor at the start of the African Vaccination Week yesterday.

The Ministry Of Health spokesperson, Ms Rukia Nakamatte, said the African Vaccination Week is an opportunity to create awareness on and demand for immunisation to promote a healthy population.
Emphasis, she said, will be placed on outreach programmes and child health days.

Health minister Ruhakana Rugunda said the activities will scale up efforts to reach every child and strengthen monitoring of vaccine-preventable diseases.