The Somali authorities have launched a new polio vaccine aimed at ensuring that Somalia remains free of polio – fifteen months after the last confirmed case was detected.
With the introduction of new polio vaccine, Somalia is implementing another milestone activity needed to take the country forward towards the goal of polio eradication.
An outbreak of polio which began in Somalia in May 2013 led to 199 people, mostly children, being affected by the incurable disease. The last case was reported on 11 August 2014 and last month it was officially announced that the outbreak was over.
The President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, took part in the launch ceremony at Villa Somalia, Mogadishu on 15 November.
“The new vaccine is key to protecting children from polio,” said Hawa Hassan Mohamed, the Minister for Health for the Somali Federal Government. “We are willing to work with all our partners to ensure that we do not see a return of this incurable disease that has devastated so many young lives.”
More than 450,000 Somali children born each year should receive one dose of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), as part of the routine immunization programme. Children under one year of age will continue to receive three doses of the oral polio vaccine as part of routine immunization. When they receive their third dose of the orally administered vaccine, they will also be given a single dose of the new injectable vaccine.
“The new vaccine is key to protecting children from polio and ensuring that we do not see a return of this incurable disease that has devastated so many young lives,” said Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “UNICEF is committed to ensuring that Somali children receive the maximum protection and are given all life-saving vaccinations on time. Continued efforts and collaboration among all partners and communities will strengthen routine immunization and ensure this takes place. “
The introduction of IPV into the routine immunisation schedule is part of a worldwide roll-out of the vaccine across 126 countries – the largest and fastest globally coordinated vaccine introduction project in history. It is funded as part of the budget of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and support is channeled through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and UNICEF.
Following the start of the polio outbreak in May 2013, more than 35 supplementary immunization campaigns using 62 million doses of the OPV vaccine, targeting children under five years of age, were implemented across Somalia. Several of these campaigns, run by the Somali health authorities, with the support of World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) have targeted children under 10 years of age and adults. The campaigns are continuing to ensure the outbreak does not return.
“It is critical that families ensure their children have all the routine immunizations as well as the supplementary campaigns,” said Dr Popal, World Health Organisation Representative in Somalia. “IPV together with OPV will help keep Somali children safe from polio.”
The universal introduction of IPV is part of the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018. It contributes to the eradication of polio and secures the gains made against the disease through stronger immunization systems, so that all children in all countries have access to vaccines. While Somalia had the last reported case in Africa in 2014, regions are only certified to have eradicated polio if no cases of the wild poliovirus are reported for three successive years in any of the countries.