Three million people will be targeted for vaccination in response to the Republic of Congo’s first polio outbreak in a decade, the United Nations Children’s Fund said.
Immunizations against the crippling viral disease will begin tomorrow in the Congolese port city of Pointe Noire and Department of Kouilou, 16 districts in the neighboring province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Angola, Unicef said in a statement on its Website today.
This is the first vaccination response to the polio outbreak confirmed on Nov. 4 in the Republic of Congo. As of Nov. 9, 226 cases of acute flaccid paralysis and 97 deaths have been reported, New York-based Unicef said. Most of the cases have involved young adults ages 15 to 29.
“This illustrates that populations are at risk because they have not been exposed to a full immunisation,” Unicef said. “The giving of vaccination to all ages is intended to raise the general level of immunity to stop the spread of the disease.”
The first case of paralysis was reported to a hospital in Pointe Noire on Oct. 1. Most of the cases were reported from Oct. 11 to Oct. 31, with a peak of 73 cases occuring from Oct. 18 to 24.
“We have to stem this fast-moving outbreak,” said Unicef’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa Gianfranco Rotigliano. “We are at a critical juncture and stopping polio in Africa requires our absolute commitment.”