Following the New Polio outbreak, Uganda launched another campaign to immunize all children below the age of 5. The campaign started on Friday, January 14, 2022, to Sunday, January 16, 2022. The initiative is aimed at creating a Uganda free of Polio, by reaching a target of 8,791,710 children.
Different strategies are being employed to reach out to the target groups among which are house to house and school to school to administer the novel oral polio vaccines (nOPV2).
However, reports indicate that some schools are declining to corporate with the Ministry of Health in the ongoing vaccination exercise.
What is heart breaking is that some of these schools are religious schools. Schools that have been reported to sabotage the vaccination of Polio include Namasuba Islamic Nursery in Makindye Division, St. Anthony Kindergarten and Moonlight both located in Maganjo Wakiso District.
As a parent, I need to send a message to those schools and fellow parents out there.
Uganda has in the past registered great achievements in defeating Polio disease and its urgency to immunize children is to avoid another epidemic in the country. Shouldn’t these stakeholders know well especially after widespread sensitization campaigns?
It is unfortunate that some schools are responsible for the lower response to the government efforts to curb this fatal health threat. Some school owners and administrative leadership are adamant and without even the consultation of the Parents, they are refusing to allow the health workers to immunize the children in Schools.
Uganda has in the past registered great achievements in defeating Polio disease and its urgency to immunize children is to avoid another epidemic in the country. Shouldn’t school stakeholders know well especially after widespread sensitization campaigns?
Much as Government has continued to prioritize the immunization services by availing the vaccines at no cost in all Government Health facilities, the Ministry reports show that there is a decline in routine immunization. Fewer numbers of children were immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases
In August 2021 the government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health confirmed the re-emerging of polio in the country even as it also continues to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Uganda recorded 1,069 polio cases in 2021. Over 4.6 million children 5 and younger are at high risk of contracting poliovirus. The resurgence appears 15 years later since 2006 when Uganda was avowed free of all polioviruses.
According to the Ministry of Health, the resurgence has been largely ascribed to parental negligence to take their children for Immunization especially during the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry also confirmed that the border cross travels from the countries with polio-endemic has also posed a threat to Uganda. This is especially from the neighboring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and South Sudan – three countries that border Uganda. It is important for the parents to know that even with the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, “polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease. The virus spreads from person to person and can infect the spinal cord, causing paralysis, leading to permanent disability or death.” Immunizing the children now will save their lives and also prevent its spread in the country and to the neighboring countries.
Uganda still has Covid-19 priorities but because it cares about saving its young generation, it is also including this on the priority list. We can’t then be dealing with disparagers over a national health issue. It should be known that if the situation worsens, it will still be a cost challenge for the country.
As parents, we know better. We understand the effects of polio much more than our children. While it’s true that government intervention has made polio seem less dangerous of late, it’s still fatal. Most of what the younger generation knows about it is that “it used to be one of the six killer diseases.” Well, it still is! Let us call upon the schools in which our children go to help us let Ministry of Health officials access our children for immunization.
I am very sure we love our children more that much. Let us be at the forefront of supporting government efforts to sensitize all stakeholders about the need to immunize our children. Government needs to apprehend the schools that are de-campaigning or blocking the immunization of children.
The writer is a mother and teacher from Mukono