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The Papua New Guinea Government has 18 months at the most to increase its children’s immunisation programme to 80 per cent from the current 30 per cent, National Planning Minister Richard Maru says.
He said a reason for the recent outbreak of polio in three provinces after almost 18 years was the lack of vaccination.
Maru stressed that on average, 30 per cent of the children were immunised and immunisation in the country had to reach 80 per cent by 2020, which meant trebling the current effort within 18 months to come close to getting rid of the disease.
Last month, the Government confirmed the circulation of a vaccine-derived polio virus in Morobe.
To control the outbreak, the United Nations supported the Government with a polio campaign that included two rounds of a Supplementary Immunisation Activity (SIA) for Morobe, Madang and Eastern Highlands.
Maru said it was expensive once there was an outbreak.
Health Secretary Pascoe Kase told The National that vaccination in the three provinces would cost more than K6 million (US$1.8 million).
“Vaccination for the whole country will be much more,” he said.
“Plans and budgets for the three provinces have been done. Our development partners are supporting with initial funding.
“Vaccination has begun in the three provinces.”
World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Luo Dapeng, in an earlier statement, said: “As the Government declares the polio outbreak as national public health emergency, WHO will provide all the necessary technical, material and logistical support to ensure that measures are in place to urgently stop this outbreak and prevent further children from lifelong polio paralysis.”
WHO has sent three experts from its headquarters and regional office to support the Government in planning its interventions and has granted US$500,000 (K1.6mil) to support Government actions.
The first round will start on Monday followed by the second round four to six weeks later.
United Nations Children’s Fund Unicef is procuring 611,000 doses of oral polio virus vaccines to immunise about 300,000 children under five years old in the three provinces.
Unicef is facilitating the distribution of vaccines, cold chain equipment (vaccine fridges) and other logistics. “We have to ensure that all children are consistently and routinely immunised against polio, the threat is there,” said David Mcloughlin, Unicef representative in PNG.
“We have to protect our children from falling victim to polio virus.”
UN resident coordinator Gianluca Rampolla said that while the outbreak was very concerning, it was controllable if the right measures were taken on time.
“We will take every measure possible to prevent the future cases,” he said.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS
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