Amidst the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ravaging the world, Burkina Faso, on Monday, concluded the vaccination of 174,304 children, the World Health Organisation has said.
The immunisation campaign was carried out in two districts of the country’s Centre-East region.
Although there has been no case of wild poliovirus reported in the country or in WHO African Region in the past three years, the country has been witnessing cases of ‘vaccine-derived poliovirus’.
Burkina Faso received its wild poliovirus-free status in 2015.
However, it is currently one of 15 countries in the African Region which are experiencing outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, a rare form of the virus that affects unimmunised and under-immunised populations living in areas with inadequate sanitation and low levels of polio immunisation.
As of June 27, the country’s disease surveillance system had detected 10 cases of poliovirus transmission in the districts of Ouargaye, Bittou, Bogodogo, Kaya, Tougouri, Signoghin, Saponé and Dori, requiring an urgent response.
WHO, in a statement, said the immunisation was carried out while observing COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures.
The country has also been battling the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic which has infected 1,000 people with 53 deaths reported.
WHO said the campaign is the first to be conducted since the government suspended all mass immunisation on March 27 due to the COVID-19 pandemic to comply with the physical distancing guidelines to curb transmission of the virus.
The pandemic has disrupted health activities in many countries especially immunisation and health services.
The UN health agency had expressed fears that all the gains made with effective immunisation campaigns across the world could be lost due to the impact of the new coronavirus outbreak.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said “we cannot wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to be contained to resume immunisation activities. If we stop immunisation for too long, including for polio, vaccine-preventable diseases will have a detrimental effect on children’s health across the region.”
“The campaigns run by the Polio Eradication Programme demonstrate that mass immunisation can be safely conducted under the strict implementation of COVID-19 infection prevention and control guidelines,” she added.
Meanwhile, WHO said as immunisation campaigns resume, teams at regional and country offices have developed guidance for countries and frontline workers to ensure their safety and that of the children and their families.
“All vaccinators and health care workers involved have been trained on maintaining physical distancing while conducting the vaccination.
“Additionally, a total of 41,250 masks, as well as 200 litres of hand sanitisers, were made available through the COVID-19 committee in the country to the 2000 frontline workers who took part in the immunisation campaign,” it stated.
Also, the campaigns involve conducting three rounds in affected areas within three months, with the first round conducted within the first 14 days.
Meanwhile, the Rapid Response Team has succeeded in ending three outbreaks in Kenya, Mozambique and Niger.
From July 10 to 13, Angola is planning a polio vaccination campaign, targeting 1,287,717 children under five years of age.
The campaign staff of 14,742 will include 4,309 vaccinators. Like Burkina Faso, strict infection prevention control measures are in place, including the distribution of 90,000 masks and 23,000 sanitisers of 500ml from the country’s ministry of health.