Following the detection of eight Wild Polio Virus (WPV) cases in the country between August and November last year, the Ministry of Health with its development partners are organizing a nationwide polio immunization.
Under the programme, which would begin from February 12 to 14 this year, and repeated from March 26 to 28, every child under five years including babies would be vaccinated.
Dr Akwasi Twumasi, the Northern Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service, announced this during a media briefing on the “2009 National Immunisation Days (NIDs)” campaign, in Tamale on Friday.
Dr Twumasi said polio was a dangerous disease, which could kill or cripple children for life adding that the disease could easily be prevented by using a safe vaccine given as drops in the mouth.
He said the doses that would be administered during the NIDs were extra doses of polio vaccine that every child under five years should receive even if the child had already been vaccinated.
He explained that every child needed about 10 to 15 doses of the vaccine for effective protection and that the doses given during the NIDs did not replace routine immunisation.
Dr Twumasi said since 1996, the country had adopted strategies to contain polio but in spite of the tremendous progress made in reducing the incidence, the disease still existed.
He said polio, which could cause paralysis of the limbs and the chest muscles and affect other parts of the body, would continue to threaten children everywhere as long as the disease existed elsewhere.
Dr Twumasi said the country was currently experiencing an outbreak of WPV since September 15 2008, after five years of polio-free since September 2003.
“So far, eight cases of wild polio (type I) have been confirmed with seven of the cases coming from the Northern Region and one unknown.
“The viruses from the eight cases have been linked with those reported from Benin,” he said.
The sector Ministry had also taken appropriate response activities including house-to-house immunisation in seven of the 10 regions, to control the outbreak between November and December, last year.
The regions, he said, were the Upper East, Upper West, Northern, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Easter and Volta.
Dr Twumasi said the Ministry of Health had also intensified surveillance activities in all the regions and districts since the outbreak.
Alhaji A.B. Yakubu, the Northern Regional Health Promoter, said one of the challenges facing the NIDs was the refusal by parents to allow their children to be immunised on suspicion that the polio vaccine would precipitate other diseases in their children.
He explained, however, that the vaccine is intended to prevent polio and nothing else.