National polio immunization campaign launched in Kyrgyzstan
The first of two rounds of national immunization days (NIDs) against poliomyelitis (polio) in Kyrgyzstan were launched on Monday, 19 July. The launch ceremony was held in an outpatient clinic in the capital, Bishkek, with the participation of Dr Sabirjan Abdikarimov, the acting Minister of Health of Kyrgyzstan, and representatives of WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Kyrgyzstan has reported over 90% coverage with three doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) each year. It is supplementing routine immunization in response to the importation of wild poliovirus into Tajikistan, the first since the WHO European Region was certified as polio free in 2002. As of 12 July 2010, Tajikistan had reported 413 laboratory-confirmed cases of wild poliovirus type 1, with 19 deaths (4.6%). The latest confirmed polio cases had disease onset on 6 June 2010. In addition, six cases had been laboratory confirmed for wild poliovirus type 1 in the Russian Federation, the only country outside Tajikistan to confirm cases.
In Kyrgyzstan, the first round of NIDs is taking place on 19–23 July, and the second on 23–27 August. With the help of mobile vaccination teams, more than half a million children aged under 5 years will be vaccinated in health care facilities or at temporary immunization posts.
NIDs have been conducted in the central Asian republics to ensure that poliovirus is not transmitted within or between countries. Four rounds have been conducted in Tajikistan and three in Uzbekistan. Both countries reported extremely high coverage, which independent monitors confirmed. The first round of nationwide NIDs in Turkmenistan started on 12 July, and Kazakhstan will conduct a round in August.
A joint press conference, held in Bishkek on 15 July, drew attention to the Kyrgyz NIDs. WHO, UNICEF, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the national Red Crescent Society and other partners in the Global Poliomyelitis Eradication Initiative pledged full support to the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan in implementing NIDs against wild poliomyelitis. Alongside other prominent speakers, the Head of the WHO Country Office, Kyrgyzstan stressed that all vaccines imported to Kyrgyzstan were pre-qualified by WHO and supplied by manufacturers that meet international quality standards for vaccine production.
Cascade training for the NIDs started on 30 June in oblasts in northern Kyrgyzstan. About 500 health care workers throughout the country have been trained in proper administration of polio vaccines. In the southern regions, special communication and social mobilization strategies are being implemented to ensure the highest possible immunization coverage.
ОPV is one of the vaccines recommended by WHO for wild poliovirus eradication. Used throughout the world, OPV has helped decrease the prevalence of wild poliovirus by more than 99%, thereby preventing paralysis in over 5 million children. Each dose of OPV helps to strengthen a child’s immunity to polio.
Initial anecdotal reports suggest that turnout during the first days of the Kyrgyz campaign has been particularly high. Monitoring by national and international partners, and records of the Ministry of Health will soon indicate the campaign’s coverage of the target population.