Anti-Polio Drive Begins in Western Africa
A massive polio vaccination initiative has begun in Western Africa. Over 150 thousand people have been sent out to administer the immunization to more than 53 million children under the age of 5.
Nigeria has been the hardest hit nation in recent years for the debilitation polio virus. Efforts to immunize children were halted in 2003 due to government suspicions that the vaccines were rendering their children infertile.
A first round of vaccinations in the 67 million dollar campaign against the crippling polio virus was carried out in Ghana earlier this month, UNICEF said.
"The highest priority is to reach every child in Nigeria, which is one of the four endemic countries, and in the high risk areas across the region," UNICEF spokeswoman Miranda Eeles told journalists.
Half of the 66 million doses of polio vaccine used in each round are destined for Nigeria, a hotbed for the virus.
Polio is a viral infectious disease that affects infants and children. It is transferred from person to person primarily through oral-fecal contamination. Polio can cause muscle weakness, nerve damage and paralysis.
The aim of this campaign is to stop the rampant spread of the virus, which is highly contagious, following an outbreak last year in Nigeria.
Traditional and religious leaders are involved in the latest vaccination campaign spearheaded by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and the US Center for Diseases Control.
Apart from Nigeria, the three other countries where polio is endemic are Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.