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Zimbabwe Launches Emergency Polio Vaccination Drive Amid Rare Mutation Concerns

Zimbabwe has initiated an urgent campaign to vaccinate over 4 million children against polio following the detection of cases caused by a rare mutation of the virus used in oral vaccines. 

This emergency response comes after health authorities identified three cases, including a 10-year-old girl who was paralyzed in January.

The Ministry of Health revealed that laboratory tests conducted on sewage samples collected from various areas in the capital, Harare, late last year showed the presence of a mutated poliovirus originating from an oral vaccine used in global eradication efforts. 

Such mutations in the live poliovirus within vaccines can occasionally lead to new outbreaks, particularly in regions with inadequate sanitation and low vaccination coverage.

While global efforts have significantly reduced polio cases by over 99% since 1988, the majority of current cases stem from the vaccine itself. To combat this challenge, Zimbabwe is implementing a new oral polio vaccine specifically designed to minimize the risk of virus mutation.

Vaccination teams are mobilizing across Zimbabwe, delivering doses directly to households and stationed at healthcare facilities. The campaign targets over 4 million children under 10 years old, with authorities aiming to immunize more than 95% of this population to prevent further outbreaks.

Zimbabwe Health Minister Douglas Mombeshora acknowledged the severity of the situation, emphasizing the country’s readiness to respond swiftly. Collaboration with health authorities in neighboring African countries where polioviruses have been detected is also underway.

Polio, a highly contagious disease, can result in paralysis, particularly in children under 5. It spreads through contaminated feces, water, food, or respiratory droplets from infected individuals.

Additional source: AfricaNews

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