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It is Polio Eradication Week, and Johannesburg is urging all parents and caregivers to ensure their children are properly vaccinated against the disease.
JOBURG is stepping up to the plate to help eradicate poliomyelitis during the global Polio Eradication Week, which takes place from 4 to 10 April around the world.


Joburg clinics administer vaccines free of chargeJoburg clinics administer vaccines free of chargeSince the start of 2011, 78 cases of polio have been reported worldwide, of which 47 cases are from non-endemic countries. The last case of polio in South Africa was reported in 1987.

Nkosinathi Nkabinde, a City spokesperson, says: “Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus. This virus mostly affects children below the age of five; however, any person who does not have immunity to polio may be affected. The virus enters through the mouth and multiplies inside the throat and intestines.”

The City’s health department has issued an urgent call to all parents to ensure that their children receive all the routine vaccines, which are administered free of charge at all clinics in Joburg. “Polio can only be eradicated if more than 95 percent of children are immunised with the polio vaccine on an annual basis,” says Nkabinde.

Person-to-person transmission of the poliovirus is high, especially where there is poor hygiene and sanitation, as well as in any environment where children are not yet potty trained. The disease can also spread when food or drinks are contaminated by faeces containing the virus.

The initial signs and symptoms of polio include fever, tiredness, headaches, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.

“In most severe cases, poliovirus attacks the brain, reducing breathing capacity and causing difficulty in swallowing and speaking. Without adequate respiratory support, this form of polio, called bulbar polio, can result in death.”

He adds: “Polio cannot be cured but it can be prevented … Five doses of oral polio vaccine [OPV] will protect a child for life.”

The virus causes paralysis, which is irreversible in many cases. It is never too late to be immunised, he says, and vaccines are always offered to children who are not up-to-date with their immunisation schedule.

Parents should also bear in mind that the immunisation schedules in the city have changed in the last two years and that all children aged 12 should receive their last dose of vaccinations against tetanus and diphtheria.

Following successful eradication efforts against smallpox, polio was targeted at the World Health Assembly in 1988 as the next disease for suppression.

“The goal was set for the global eradication of polio by the year 2000. However, there has been an upsurge in the number of cases reported,” says Nkabinde.

Age of child
 Vaccine needed
At birth
 OPV (0) oral polio vaccine
6 weeks
 OPV (1) oral polio vaccine
DTP (a) / Hib / IPV (1)
Hep B (1)
PCV (1) and
Rotavirus (1)
10 weeks
 DTP (a) / Hib / IPV (2)
Hep B (2)
14 weeks
 DTP (a) / Hib / IPV (3)
Hep B (3)
PCV (2)
RV (2)
9 months
 Measles (1)
PCV (3)
18 months
 DTP (a) / Hib / IPV (4)
Measles (2)
6 years
 TD / tetanus / oral polio vaccine
12 years
 TC / tetanus

The vaccinations give protection against diseases:

Oral polio against poliomyelitis;
BCG against tuberculosis;
DTP/TD against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough;
Hib against Hib diseases, namely meningitis, which affects the lining of the brain; pneumonia, an infection of the lungs; and others;
IPV, injectable polio vaccine, against poliomyelitis;
Hep B against hepatitis B, a disease of the liver;
PCV is the pneumonia conjugate vaccine against pneumonia;
Rotavirus against diarrhoea caused by the rotavirus; and
Measles against measles.
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