Written by Abdoulie John

The First Lady, Fatoumata Bah-Barrow, has reminded Gambians of the importance of the vaccine rollout as she officially launched on Friday the oral polio vaccination campaign.

“Vaccinating children with the oral polio vaccine has been proven as a globally safe and effective strategy to break the chain of transmission of the virus among the population and enhance population immunity,” said the First Lady in the address she delivered at Buffer Zone during the launching of a four-day vaccination campaign against poliovirus.

In August this year, the Ministry of Health released the findings of test lab, indicating the presence of the poliovirus in 10 environmental samples. The massive vaccination drive that started Saturday will end on Tuesday 23rd November 2021. Health authorities are targeting 382, 908 children, ranging from 0 to 59 months.

While assuring that government will continue to be committed to fighting off polio as stipulated by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the First Lady took the opportunity to commend health workers, parents and caregivers for “their selfless dedication and commitment in serving and protecting our vulnerable children.”

In its National Development Plan (2018-2021), the Gambia gov’t vowed to “paying attention to mothers and children, including the use of the Baby Friendly Community and Hospital Initiatives.”

Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Health Dr. Ahmadou Samateh, the Director of Health Services, Dr. Mustapha Bittaye, warned parents to desist from falling into vaccine hesitancy. He then added that children will be at high risk of getting the disease if they fail to be inoculated the poliovirus oral vaccine.

“Vaccination teams will be visiting every house,” he said as the country’s vaccine rollout kickstarts in grand style. “They will be visiting schools, playgrounds, crossing points” to make sure children are vaccinated.

Dr. Bittaye further stated that 27 African countries are currently battling the poliovirus, making big vaccination push to contain the spread of the virus.

In a joint statement issued on Friday and seen by this medium, WHO and UNICEF made it very clear that they are “at the centre stage of this global partnership against polio,” and reiterated their commitment to supporting the government “in ensuring that all children under the age of five years are protected against this debilitating virus.”

Both agencies of the UN system injected millions of dalasi into the vaccination campaign. As WHO disbursed GMD16,100,000 for first and second round of the vaccine rollout, UNICEF came up with GMD13,800,000 to support the campaign in “strengthening the cold chain system.”

Ends

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