It’s not surprising that the public has reservations about the mass polio vaccination exercise. The fact is, there are a lot of misconceptions about the oral polio vaccine… people say it’s an injection, people say it causes impotency in later life and the focal one being that – It gives the children polio itself.

Take a deep breath, let’s elaborate in this. We ( as health workers) acknowledge these genuine concerns, we can’t have your little angel getting ill because of a vaccination.
The truth is, yes the vaccine( which is given by mouth; orally) can give the polio, however this may( note the may) occur in 1 in 2.7 million children. Polio that occurs from the administration of the OPV exists in two forms:
1.Vaccine Associated Paralytic Polio (VAPP)
2.Vaccine Derived Polio vaccine (VDP)
These two are similar but different.
So what causes VAPP or VDP?  Both are caused by the strain of polio virus in the OPV changing into the infectious form that causes poliomyelitis(paralysis) in the intestines.
1. VAPP is associated with single dose of OPV given to a child or non immune contact of the vaccine( someone who has taken the vaccine but has not developed resistance against the virus). The infected person excretes the mutated virus in his or her feaces. Good news is that there is no outbreak associated  VAPP. This means that it is a one time occurrence of poliomyelitis which does not put other people at risk.
In developing countries such as Ghana, risk of VAPP is higher in subsequent doses of OPV than the first dose so it is important to take only the specified dosage especially in the mass campaign.
2. VDPV also causes the child to be paralysed but in this case the mutated virus develops the ability to infect others. When this happens it is termed as circulating vaccine derived polio paralysis(cVDPV). When VDPV circulates for more than six months it is termed as persistent VDPV.
Contrary to what we may think,it is when routine immunizations are poorly conducted, like when parents keep missing the OPV doses because they did not attend ‘weighing'(CWC), that increases the risk of VAPP or VDPV occurrence.
If you have your child’s weighing’ card you will notice that there are 3 doses of OPV he or she has to take at the clinic( routine immunization):
  • OPV 0- taken at birth
  • OPV 1- taken at 6 weeks
  • OPV 2- taken at 10 weeks, an inactivated form of the virus is given as injection later at14 weeks.
It is important to complete the process,  if the child has taken only a portion of the doses his immunity is not established and he is at risk of getting the poliomyelitis.
It is also important to note that even though a child might complete the routine immunization at CWC or weighing, he or she will still have to take the one that the MOH is giving out.
This is because of the state of emergency which has been declared. You see over the years after the introduction of the polio vaccine, in 2014 or so…Ghana was declared as polio free, however a recent environmental sample taken from Abgogbloshie has tested positive to the polio virus and there have been three cases in the Northern region of Ghana indicating that there is a risk of the disease reemerging.
Mode of transmission for polio is feaco- oral just like cholera, that means the germs spread from feaces to our mouths…this can be from improper or no hand washing, vector transmission( houseflies moving from feaces onto our food), improper handling of food( por washing, leaving food uncovered, unhygienic preparation etc).
As adults and caretakers it us important to ensure proper hand washing, cover food properly, eat hot food and keep our environment clean.
And let us cooperate with the health workers as they come around schools , churches and homes to give the emergency OPV to our children from 0- 59 months.
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Polio Vaccination

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