Nearly three million children under five years in 15 counties will next week be vaccinated against polio.
The government has said that the move is aimed at keeping the viral infection outside the Kenyan borders.
The five-day oral vaccination campaign will begin on Wednesday and end on Sunday. It will be launched at the Isiolo County Referral Hospital.
This comes following a polio risk analysis conducted every three months by the Ministry of Health, which identified Nairobi, Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma and Busia as “high-risk counties”.
The head of Disease Surveillance at the Ministry of Health, Dr Daniel Langat, said the vaccination had been prompted by an ongoing polio outbreak within Africa – Nigeria in August 2016 – that he says potentially exposes Kenya to a possible polio outbreak.
“Our analysis looked at the performance of routine immunisation in counties as well as the proximity of certain counties to areas with importation of previous polio cases such as in North Eastern. Further, we looked at the movement of population and that is why a place like Nairobi is on the list,” Dr Langat told the Nation on Wednesday.
Further, the ministry said nearly half a million children under five miss out in such vaccination drives, exposing them to preventable diseases. It also puts their communities and peers at risk of getting the infections.
Details of the preparations and arrangements for the vaccination campaign will be top on the agenda of a meeting for polio stakeholders in Nairobi on Thursday that will be hosted by Director of Medical Services Jack Kioko.
Dr Sammy Mahugu, head of the Health Promotion Unit in the Health Ministry, told Nation on phone on Wednesday that his department had set aside Sh70 million for advocacy, communication and mobilisation.
Polio, a highly infectious viral disease with no cure, invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis, particularly in children under five and the elderly. The virus is transmitted through water or food contaminated with faecal matter from the infected person. It then multiplies in the intestine and causes symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs.
Currently, children who are 14 months old and taken to health facilities can get an injectable form of the polio vaccine, which is an additional dose to the oral polio vaccine currently being given to children.
Other than Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan have also reported polio cases as recently as November.