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UN-backed polio vaccination campaign launched in West Africa

UN-backed polio vaccination campaign launched in West Africa

Children being immunized against polio
With the backing of United Nations agencies and other partners, tens of thousands of health workers and trained volunteers are set to immunize 80 million children under age five in West Africa as a synchronized polio vaccination campaign got under way today in the region.

The launch, held today in Lungi, Sierra Leone, featured the presidents of Mali, Sierra Leone and other high-level dignitaries in a multi-country, multi-ethnic ceremony.

From 20 to 26 October, National Immunization Days will take place in 16 West African countries, including border areas as well as refugee and nomadic camps. In Sierra Leone, the campaign will be carried out from 20 to 22 October, and will vaccinate children that had been unreachable during previous campaigns.

Last year, synchronized immunization days successfully reached 76 million children with the oral polio vaccine, and dramatically reduced transmission of the virus. This year's initiative aims to completely eradicate polio from the region, where only 20 cases have been reported so far this year, compared to 1,199 in 1999.

The campaign, part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, is spearheaded by the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). Volunteers play a central role in the immunization work. So far, some 10 million people have participated in such mass vaccination campaigns.