Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
BULAWAYO province must maintain high oral polio vaccine coverage to avoid recording new cases, amid reports that the World Health Organisation has declared the African continent polio free.
Polio is a crippling virus that may cause paralysis and is easily preventable through the polio vaccine.
Polio which is common in children is transmitted through contaminated water or food, or contact with an infected person.
Zimbabwe last recorded a case in 1998 and from then, Government has been able to contain the disease.
The announcement is one of the greatest achievements in public health history for Africa which recorded its last case in 2016 in Nigeria.
Bulawayo director of health services Dr Edwin Sibanda said the declaration is a positive milestone although there is a great need for residents to adhere to vaccination schedules.
“The declaration is a positive milestone. However, we need to maintain a high Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) coverage to minimise circulation of the wild polio virus within communities. This can be achieved if the head immunity of that population is high,” said Dr Sibanda.
“The city continues to monitor the occurrence of vaccine preventable diseases through surveillance activities.”
He added that every child below 15 years of age presenting Acute Flaccid Paralysis is investigated to rule out polio in Bulawayo.
Dr Sibanda encouraged mothers to bring children under the age of five years for vaccination against all childhood diseases including Polio.
“Our children are safe but we need to maintain high OPV coverage of at least 80 percent in districts and at least 90 percent at national level. Vaccinations are offered for free at all municipal clinics from Monday to Saturday and mothers should take advantage of that.”
Dr Sibanda said immunisation services are readily available in public health facilities, at outreach points for populations in the hard to reach areas as well as in some private health facilities.
Announcing the certification, WHO director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus applauded governments in Africa for working towards towards eradicating polio.
“Ending wild polio virus in Africa is one of the greatest public health achievements of our time and provides powerful inspiration for all of us to finish the job of eradicating polio globally,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.
“I thank and congratulate the governments, health workers, community volunteers, traditional and religious leaders and parents across the region who have worked together to kick wild polio out of Africa.” — @thamamoe