Health department starts supplementary polio drive

Chantelle Hendricks administering the polio vaccine to a pre-school pupil from the Lady of the Rosary Day Care Centre in Hanover Park.

According to the provincial Department of Health, one in every 200 children infected with the polio virus becomes paralysed.

Polio is a highly infectious disease and mainly affects children under three years old. It is excreted in stools and spreads rapidly from one person to another.

The Department of Health said there is no cure for polio therefore vaccination against this disease is imperative. The department has rolled out a supplementary immunisation campaign, which started on Monday October 31, and runs until Friday November 18.

The aim of the campaign is to vaccinate children up to 59 months old against polio and administer Vitamin A supplements and Mebendazole deworming tablets, and to encourage parents to take their children to the clinic for all vaccinations.

Health-care facilities within the Klipfontein area are immunising young children under the age of five during the campaign.

The Hanover Park Community Health Centre immunised more than 50 pre-school children under the age of five at the Lady of the Rosary Day Care Centre in Hanover Park, on Wednesday November 2.

Monique Johnstone, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, said that in certain areas nutritional screening would also be done to identify malnourished children.

“This campaign is supplementary and does not replace the routine vaccinations as indicated in their Road to Health booklet, and the aim of this campaign is to increase population immunity against polio, which is a potentially deadly illnesses, while providing additional child survival interventions such as Vitamin A supplements,” said Ms Johnstone.

She said parents should see that their children receive this supplementary immunisation if they are part of the target groups, such as oral polio vaccine to all children from birth to 59 months; Vitamin A supplementation to all children aged 12 to 59 months; nutritional screening in selected districts or sub-districts of all children aged 6 to 59 months; and Mebendazole deworming to all children aged 24 to 59 months.

Jane Manuel, principal of Our Lady of the Rosary Day Care Centre in Hanover Park, said the vaccinations were very important because children could get infected with different diseases very quickly.

About 70 children at her daycare centre had received the immunisation.

“A lot of parents can’t afford to buy multi-vitamins for their children, so when they come and do it at school it makes it easier for the parents. A lot of children are only given bread to eat at home, which can lead to worms, and they buy cheap chips which have all those colorants in them, and their immune systems suffer because of it,” said Ms Manuel.

Ms Johnstone said parents could ensure their children were immunised during this campaign by taking them to the nearest clinic; signing the consent form so that the child could be immunised at their creche, pre-school, children’s home or daycare centre; or taking their children to the campaign posts set up in various areas.

“Vitamin A, deworming, and nutritional screening help to ensure children have healthy, well-developed and nourished bodies. Malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency increases the risk of developing measles complications as well as other illnesses. Deworming should also be conducted regularly to prevent worm infestation, which can also lead to malnourishment,” Ms Johnstone said.