Injectable polio  vaccine being introduced from July

By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Epidemiology Unit yesterday announced the introduction of the latest injectable Polio vaccine into the National Immunisation Programme from July this year as yet another step to eradicate poliomyelitis (polio) from the country.

 Addressing the media at a briefing held to announce the ‘World Immunisation Week’ from Friday (24) to Thursday (30), Chief of the Epidemiology Unit, Dr Paba Palihawadana said the Injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) was a part of the global effort to eradicate polio.

 Poliomyelitis was a highly infectious disease that was caused by the polio virus which invaded the nervous system. The polio virus entered the body through the mouth often with food or drinking water due to poor hygienic conditions. It causes paralysis and even death, she warned.

 Explaining the administration of the Vaccine, Dr Palihawadana said that the IPV would be given at the age of four months with the second vaccination dose of Pentavalent. "Two injections at a single visit for the child are better than vaccination on two separate days," the Epidemiology Chief observed. 

 Dr Palihawadana said: "The introduction of IPV and the eventual phased withdrawal of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) were necessary to secure a lasting Polio free world. Adding at least one dose of IPV to the routine immunisation programme was the best way to protect children from lifelong polio".

 The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was formed in 1988 while the global incidence of polio had been reduced by 99 per cent. The number of countries with endemic polio has dropped from 125 to three namely, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. She said that the numbers reported from Nigeria too had dwindled considerably.

 Palihawadana cautioned travellers visiting countries where Polio cases were still detected to ensure that they obtained a dose of the vaccine prior to embarking on their journey.

 The Epidemiology Chief said that global plans were underway to wipe out poliomyelitis by 2018. Sri Lanka had been free of polio since 1993, while the South East Asian region received the Polio free certification in March last year.

 Sri Lanka follows stringent polio vaccination coverage and maintained a strict surveillance system to identify possible cases early. She said that the programme had been so successful in the country due to state patronage as well as the collaborative efforts of mothers, and health service personnel.

 The Director General Health Services, Dr Palitha Mahipala said that the government had allocated funds for immunisation while increasing allocations for the health service from 1.4 per cent of its GDP to 3 per cent. The effort to eradicate polio from Sri Lanka was being carried out by the Health Ministry in collaboration with the WHO, UNICEF and the Rotarian Foundation, he said.     

 Dr Mahipala said that the immunisation programme would be further developed in the future to address several other infectious diseases.

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