At a press press conference held at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on Tuesday 23rd February, the Deputy Programme Manager Child Health Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Dr. Mariama Murray has told journalists that this year’s campaign would target 1.5 million children between 0-59 months. “At least 95% of 0-59 month old will receive polio vaccines for free from the 26th-29th February, 2016” Dr. Murray said. This round of Polio marklete will be the first since the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

Dr. Murray
The goal for the campaign: reduction in morbidity and mortality of women and children through the increase coverage of various life-saving interventions.

The press conference was attended by Dr. Pamela Mitula WHO, Expanded Programme Immunisation (EPI) Team Leader, Victor Sule UNICEF Immunisation Specialist and Kweku Frazer President Rotary Club of Freetown.

It was made known at the briefing that, this was the 1st round of campaign for 2016 as part of the EPI’s Revitalization Plans. The national coverage for all the vaccines dropped as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak which led to underutilization of health facilities for fear of contracting Ebola.

According to a Study on Public Knowledge, Attitudes (KAP) and Practices Related to EVD Prevention and Medical Care in Sierra Leone done by FOCUS 1000 and other partners in August 2014, shows that the virus contributed to 38% major dropout rate in vaccinations across the country.

WHO, UNICEF and Rotary have given support to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to conduct various trainings for health workers who have been assigned to administer the vaccines. Infection Prevention Control was one of the training modules captured. These global organisations would also serve as independent monitors to see that the last child if possible receives the polio marklate during this period.

Key messages for this campaign are:
1. Polio marklate for all children under 5 years
2. Every child under five years needs to be vaccinated regardless of the number of previous Polio Marklate given
3. Take your child to the nearest health clinic if you notice any weakness in the limbs
4. Parents and caregivers are reminded to take all children under-5 to the nearest health clinic for all routine marklate.

UNICEF, WHO and Rotary representatives at the meeting pledged their commitments towards the campaign.

It could be recalled that Sierra Leone was declared free from polio since 1999 and until the outbreak of Ebola there was a zero report of polio contraction in the country. However, 12 new incidents of polio outbreak have been confirmed in six districts in Sierra Leone – Kambia, Port Loko, Moyamba, Bo, Kenema and Freetown – since July 2009 according to WHO report.

In order to complement the effort of partners, FOCUS 1000 and the Civil Society Plathform for Scaling up nutrition and immunization will engage religious leaders, market women and traditional healers to participate in radio discussion programmes and civil society platform district coordinating bodies will support DHMT at district level to monitor the campaign and raise community awareness.

By Sallieu Sesay