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Apr 28, 2016

Healthy Living Looks at Polio

Vaccination week in the Americas and across the region; the focus is on countries to expand their coverage of immunization for infants and children. In Belize we have boasted for some time now that we are one of the top ten countries with outstanding immunization coverage in the past few years. Now Belize, along with the rest of the world, is working towards the eradication of a once very common childhood illness – polio. Putting an end to any disease requires a  global effort and that is exactly what is taking place with the eradicate polio initiative; where it is hoped that by 2020 through the use of vaccines and some country specific efforts – the incurable disease will be no more. This has led to a slight change in our regular vaccination schedule in Belize. You’ll find out all about it in tonight’s Healthy Living.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
Belize has an excellent track record when it comes to immunization. In fact, we have been ranked in the top ten in immunization coverage in both Central America and the Caribbean.

Javier Zuniga

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Regional Manager, Centreal Health Region, MOH

“We have about ninety-five percent coverage on all the immunization program for the country and globally as well. So I must thank the nurses, primarily the rural health nurses, who are involved in this initiative. They do a very good job in getting children immunized in this country. The challenging areas are primarily those towns and villages that are distant – primarily the villages – out in the very remote areas where people would have children, but yet they do not seek medical attention. Sometimes the nurses in these areas do not know that these people have delivered a child and they will raise these children without having an immunization.”


Global immunization campaigns led to the eradication of small pox in the 1980’s and in the course of history, scientists have only been able to conquer two diseases, small pox and another which only affected cattle. Today, with a ninety-nine point nine reduction in cases since the 1980’s; the world in on the verge of conquering it’s third disease, the once prevalent polio.


Dr. Javier Zuniga

“We’re very close; we’ve had ninety-nine percent decrease in polio incidences globally. We only have two countries that still have endemic transmission of polio and that is Afghanistan and Pakistan. And that is because they have challenges in those areas to get children immunized; has to do with security and other issues. But Nigeria and India were also two of the countries in the top four, but they have now had a decrease in which they have had no cases since 2014. So India went on a mass campaign to immunize all their children and this led then, it showed that it can be effective if we do have the initiative to do the immunization coverage. Polio, as we all know, it can be very severe because it does cause paralysis in children primarily and of course once these children are paralyzed, it is said that one in ten of these will remain paralytic for the rest of their lives. So again, disability for these children is a problem and then adults as well. The expectation yes is to eradicate polio by 2020; this initiative started in 2015 and it will go up to 2020.”


The first step in this final phase is to introduce a new vaccine; which means, that polio drops that was traditionally administered to babies is being replace – at least in the first round of immunizations.


Dr. Javier Zuniga

“The first step was to introduce a new vaccine for polio known as the IPV, an inactivated Polio virus vaccine and that one is injectable unlike the traditional polio vaccines that were all by oral drops. So this one is introduce by an intramuscular, usually in the leg, and that will be given as a first dose. Another change in the scheme is that now you have an introduction of a booster at eighteen months, which we didn’t have. And then another second booster, given between four and five years, which usually was in the scheme.”


The first dose is given at two months and the drops will still be administered at four and six months. The shift began from 2015 and Doctor Zuniga says there have been no side effects reported just the redness and soreness at the injection site.


Dr. Javier Zuniga

“Immunization is very important. We have seen that childhood illness and particularly those that we have as immunizations have decreased significantly over a period of time, since the introduction of vaccines. This shows that we can really decrease he incidences of infectious diseases and even it could lead to eradication like in the case of polio.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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