Mbale City officials start  polio vaccination drive

Mr Edward Nyogesa, the Mbale City surveillance officer (left), inspects the Doko sewerage treatment plant in Mbale City at the weekend. PHOTO/PHOEBE MASONGOLE

What you need to know:

  • Parents have been asked to take children who did not complete their vaccination by the age of five to health facilities for the exercise. 

Following an outbreak of polio in Mbale City,  officials have embarked on a vaccination drive.
Dr Moses Mugonyi, the health officer of Mbale City, said they are collecting samples from all the children living near Doko Sewage System in Industrial Division in Mbale City.

“We have decided to include all areas surrounding Mbale City in our sampling efforts. Samples are now being taken to Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRA), and we are awaiting the investigation results to confirm if any of the children are infected with the disease so far,’’ he said. 

Dr Mugonyi said: “We have identified two children who developed weakness, but investigations are ongoing as many other diseases can have similar symptoms to polio.’’
He further explained that poliovirus multiplies in an infected person before it is excreted in the stool and then it’s flushed into the sewage system, where it can be detected through laboratory testing. 

“Any child who has developed weakness, usually followed by a fever, we ask them [parents] to alert our teams for investigation to determine the possible cause, whether it may be polio or another disease,’’ he said.
The health officer called upon parents to take children who did not complete their vaccination by the age of five to health facilities for the exercise. 

“In Mbale, we are organising campaigns to ensure all children who have not completed their vaccines are identified and immunised. We are immunising all children under five years old to reduce the chances of children missing out on polio protection,’’ he said. 
Residents and leaders in Mbale City have blamed the outbreak of polio on poor disposal of human waste. They say the waste is being dumped into rivers and forests. 

Mr Sam Ogoola, a resident of Natamala Ward in the Industrial City Division, said “improper disposal of human waste has of late become a menace in the area’’. 

“The whole environment is being destroyed, water bodies are polluted and contaminated, yet many people depend on them for water for domestic use. We are getting different diseases and infections, especially from the River Namatala,” he said.
Mr Gerald Mafabi, another resident of Namatala Ward, said even used diapers are carelessly disposed of. 
Mr Steven Masiga, a researcher and local governance expert, said Mbale City lacks public toilets.

“The biggest problem in Mbale City is it lacks public toilets and so many litter the city with human waste,’’ he said. 
Mr Edward Nyogesa, the city surveillance officer, said as part of the response and preparedness efforts, Mbale City health officials are working hard to ensure that all vaccines, including Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which has been out of stock for a month, are available. 

The BCG is the live attenuated vaccine form of mycobacterium bovis used to prevent tuberculosis and related infections. 
Locals and a section of health workers decried the stockout of BCG vaccine at most health facilities in Mbale City.
Ms Gloria Nabulobi, a mother who delivered one week ago at Namatala Health Centre IV, said she is worried about her child’s health because of not getting the vaccine.

 “My child was only given the Hepatitis B vaccine. I tried to look around at other hospitals, but they also informed me that they did not have the BCG vaccines. I am very worried because I had the vaccine that is supposed to be administered immediately after delivery,” she said. 

Why we immunise
Ms Joyce Nabulumbi, another mother and a health worker, said it is crucial to have a complete vaccination schedule to protect children from various diseases. 
“Without access to all necessary vaccines, our children’s health is at risk, and they are left vulnerable to serious illnesses,” she said. 
Mr Jacob Wenekha, a caretaker at Namatala Health Centre IV, said: “It’s important to immunise a child because vaccines protect them from life-threatening diseases and help build their immune system. Without it, children are vulnerable to infections.” 

Ms Sarah Nabudde, a midwives at Namatala Health Centre, said the BCG vaccine is important in a baby’s growth, adding that lack of it hinders their overall development. 
“This vaccine helps to build a strong immune system in infants, reducing the risk of severe TB and other related infections,’’ she said. 

Dr Mugonya said the stockout of the BCG vaccine in Mbale health facilities has persisted for nearly a month.
“The reason why the BCG vaccine runs out is because a bottle contains 18 doses. According to Uganda’s policy, even if only one child is delivered, we must immunise that child and discard the remaining 17 doses. This results in a lot of wastage, unlike other vaccines where children are brought on pre-planned days,” he said. 

Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Health on the BCG stockout were futile by press time.
Polio is an illness caused by a virus that affects nerves in the spinal cord or brain stem. It can lead to a person being unable to move certain limbs and it can also lead to trouble breathing and sometimes death. The disease is also called poliomyelitis. 
Ministry of Health officials early this week confirmed that there is poliovirus circulating in the community of Mbale City after they found the virus presence in sewage samples. 

Samples taken from sewage ponds in Doko in Namatala Ward in Industrial City Division were taken to Uganda Virus Research Institute that confirmed the presence of the virus.
The samples were also taken to World Health Organisation (WHO) laboratory in South Africa for confirmatory tests and the results were positive.
By , Phoebe Masongole and Fred Wambede