The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: 97 Percent Vaccinated Against Polio

AT least 97 per cent of children under the age of one receive polio vaccination according to Dr Maurice Gatera, the head of Vaccine Preventable Diseases in the Ministry of Health.

He said that the last polio cases in Rwanda were witnessed back in 1993 and no new cases have been registered since.

"Rwanda is actually a polio free nation even though the World Health Organization (WHO) hasn't yet given its approval," he said.

Rwanda can't be declared polio free by global organisation owing to the fact that it's still at risk because of neighbouring countries which are still affected by the disease, the official explained.

Gatera said cases of the highly contagious disease were still reported in neighbours DRC, Burundi and Kenya. Polio can only be prevented but can't be cured.

He stated that Community Health Workers in Rwanda monitor parents and encourage them to take their children for immunization, thus the high number of children accessing the vaccine.

The vaccines are administered free of charge and parents are sensitized so they know why they need to immunize their children, Gatera explained.

He added that most children receive at least three doses of the vaccine which keep their immunity strong enough to fight the disease.

According to WHO, polio cases have decreased by over 99 per cent since 1988, from an estimated more than 350,000 cases to 650 reported cases in 2011.

Today, only three countries in the world have never stopped transmission of polio. They are Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to information on the WHO website.

As long as a single child remains infected with the poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease according to WHO.

Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within ten years, all over the world, based on information from the health organisation.

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