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First Lady Launches National Polio Vaccination Campaign

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Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow
First Lady

By Landing Ceesay 
The First Lady of the Republic of the Gambia Madam Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow launched national Polio vaccination campaign. 
The oral Polio vaccination campaign against polio virus in the Gambia came after multiple positive samples were discovered which led the Minister of Health Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh declared it as an outbreak on 18th of August 2021. 
While speaking at the official launch of the vaccination campaign, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, the First Lady of the Republic of the Gambia said the vaccination campaign is a positive step in the polio outbreak response activities. 
She added that countrywide vaccination coverage is the surest way to guarantee protection against the poliovirus. 
“Previous polio vaccination campaigns have been successful and I believe that we will equally do well or even better in this particular campaign. I, therefore, encourage all parents and caregivers to ensure that their children are vaccinated to enable us to put a stop to the circulation of the virus among the population. Once completed successfully, another vaccination round will be conducted the next year, 2022, to ensure that children in the country are fully protected against polio,” the First Lady said. 
Dr Desta Tiruneh, Representative of the World Health Organisation to the Gambia said they are going to immunise the high-risk group of children under five years of age to stop the transmission of the virus and prevent disease. 
“The WHO has secured about D16, 100, 000 (sixteen million, one hundred thousand dalasis) for rounds of the campaign. It has supported the training and movement of about 1, 666 personnel as vaccinators, supervisors and monitors that would be deployed through the country to supervise and monitor the campaign. It has also brought into the country a team of 6 international experts to work with the Ministry of Health on the response as well as providing personal protection equipment face masks and hand sanitisers to all persons participating in the campaign to ensure proper infection control practices. 
” UNICEF, on the other hand, has supported with D13, 800, 000 (Thirteen million, eight hundred thousand) to support the programme including advocacy and sensitization meetings. It has provided all the vaccines and logistics required for this campaign including strengthening of the cold chain system. It has fielded a team of 4 International consultants that are supporting the Ministry of Health in strengthening communication, social mobilisation and community engagement to ensure a successful campaign. It has recruited and trained 942 personnel to support social mobilisation and vaccine management,” Dr Desta Tiruneh said in a joint statement at the occasion. 
Meanwhile, Dr Mustapha Bittaye, Director of Health Services, Ministry of Health said any child that failed to receive the vaccine is at high risk of getting the disease. 
“The detection of the poliovirus in the environment in June this year poses a serious threat to our achievements and more so our vulnerable children. Therefore, vaccinating them with additional two doses of NOPV 2 will boost their immunity and protect them against the virus. Any child who is between 0 to 59 months who failed to receive this new type of polio vaccine is at high risk of getting the disease,” Dr Bittaye said. 
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted from person to person mainly through the faecal-oral route or less frequently by a common vehicle for example contaminated water food and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. Research has shown that 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis usually in the legs. Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilised. 
The First Lady today launched the national vaccination campaign against Polio at the Buffer Zone in Tallinding in the Kanifing Municipality.

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