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Polio vaccination saves lives

REVELATIONS that 68 families in Eastern Province have refused to have their children vaccinated against polio due to religious reasons are unfortunate. According to provincial public health specialist Charles Fanaka, there are 880,678 children who have been immunised against polio in the region, representing 96 percent of the targeted number. “As a province, we managed to vaccinate a total of 880,678 children below the age of eight. We did record a number of refusals, a total of 68, and the main reasons for refusal were religious beliefs,” he said. This is a sad development which calls for heightened sensitisation on the importance of vaccinating children against viral infections. The refusal by the 68 families is regrettable, especially that this is not the first time there are reports of parents refusing to have their children inoculated against viral infections.
Some time back, members of Zion Church in Southern Province rejected the vaccination of their children against measles, an infection that is serious for small children but is easily preventable by a vaccine. There have also been cases where sick people have been advised by their church leaders against seeking medical treatment on the pretext that they will be cured after being prayed for, but such patients have often ended up dying. In the case of the latest refusal by some families to take their children for vaccination against polio, other than religious reasons, some community members are concerned about the frequency of the immunisation exercise in Eastern Province because about five campaigns have previously been done before the latest one.
Surely, these are not substantial grounds for well-meaning and caring parents to deny their own children an opportunity to get protected from viral illnesses which can lead to death in the absence of vaccination. Immunisation against polio is life-saving because it is a very contagious disease which spreads easily from one person to another. If vaccinated, most people who get polio do not have any serious problems. Polio can be very dangerous and lead to permanent disabilities, and even death.
The polio vaccine, otherwise called poliovirus vaccine, is an injection administered by healthcare providers to prevent poliovirus infections which can lead to polio. Polio is an incurable condition which can cause various symptoms, with the most serious being paralysis. This vaccination is usually done in childhood. The ailment has many complications when a person catches it, and the greatest difficulties of polio infection include paralysis with bulbar involvement, fatal respiratory and cardiovascular collapse, among others. To prevent such complications, immunisation is the only cornerstone of eradicating polio. Oral polio vaccine has been the inoculation used predominantly in the past in global campaigns and is still used in endemic areas. The vaccine protects children by preparing their bodies to fight off the poliovirus. Nearly all children who receive all the recommended doses of the vaccine are protected from polio. Polio often spreads due to contact with stool from an infected person. This often happens due to poor handwashing, though it can also happen from eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Initial symptoms of polio are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. Among those paralysed, five to 10 percent die when their breathing muscles become immobilised. That is why the importance of parents taking their children for vaccination against polio cannot be overstated.