Uganda targets over 8.7 million children with the new oral polio vaccine as part of its process to build health systems resilience

A child's finger is marked after receiving a polio vaccine in Kampala, Uganda, on Jan. 14, 2022. (Xinhua/Nicholas Kajoba)

A child’s finger is marked after receiving a polio vaccine in Kampala, Uganda, on Jan. 14, 2022.(PHOTO/Xinhua/Nicholas Kajoba)

The Ministry of Health is set to administer the new oral polio vaccine (nOPV2) to 8.7 million children aged zero to five years old in a nationwide door-to-door campaign from 4 to 10 November 2022, as part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rotary International and other partners.

This campaign is the second phase of the response to the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus detected in an environmental sample in Lubigi in July 2021. It was launched by Uganda’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Dr Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, during the commemoration of World Polio Day 2022 and the national launch of Uganda’s second OPV2 campaign.

Launching the door-to-door immunization campaign, Dr. Jane Aceng said that immunization is an important aspect of health system strengthening: “The resilience of the health system also depends on immunization at community level. We are working hard, with the support of our partners, to improve the capacity of our health system.”

Recognising the ongoing threat posed by population movements, including refugees during the Ebola outbreak and COVID-19, “the Ministry of Health remains committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure that every child receives essential routine immunisation services, including polio vaccination,” Dr Jane Aceng stressed.

Dr Samuel Bawa, Coordinator of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in Uganda, speaking on behalf of WHO, noted that “achieving a polio-free world requires a strong public health system that is able to respond to public health threats and emergencies affecting populations worldwide.”

Dr Bawa went on to encourage Uganda for this major decision to strengthen polio eradication in the country and protect the health of children.

The Ugandan Ministry of Health’s five-year strategic plan for immunization recognizes the importance of immunization as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions. “The Ministry of Health calls on all partners to support the country’s fight against vaccine hesitancy, which is mainly fueled by misinformation spread through social media,” Dr Jane Ruth Aceng recalled.

Building on the structure and resources of the nOPV2 campaign, a total of approximately 72,000 immunisation teams consisting of health workers, Village Health Teams (VHTs) and Local Council Representatives (LC1s) will go house-to-house to administer oral polio vaccines. These teams are also being trained to sensitise the community on interpersonal communication, key household messages (KHMs) on Ebola prevention and community-based case definition to improve early detection and reporting.

Uganda is not new to mass polio vaccination campaigns. The most recent one took place from 14 to 18 January 2022, using a door-to-door strategy. By the end of the six-day campaign, a total of 9,768,697 children in 136 districts had received the nOPV2 vaccine out of 8,791,710 targeted children, representing a national coverage of 111.1%.

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