17th National Immunization Day to vaccinate 22m children

Dhaka, November 28, 2009: Bangladesh will immunise 22 million children under the age of five on Saturday in an effort to sustain its polio free status by providing 2 drops of polio vaccines to observe the first round of 17th National Immunization Day (NID) tomorrow. The second round will be observed on 3 January 2009.

The field workers from both Health and Family Planning along with 6 lac volunteers will administer oral polio vaccines (OPV) to 22 million children aged 0-59 months and vitamin A capsule to 18 million children aged 12-59 months at 140,000 sites across the country. Besides, a four-day house-to-house search will follow in order to make sure that no child is left out.

The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) with support from UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, Atlanta) mounted a model response to immunize all under-5 children across the country when the first case of polio was detected in March 2006 after an absence of five years. Eighteen polio cases were thereafter detected in 12 districts across all divisions of Bangladesh with the last one reported on 22 November, 2006.

As the NIDs re-started, the Government of Bangladesh decided to integrate National Vitamin A-Plus Campaign (NVAC) with NIDs. With support from Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Micronutrient Initiative, UNICEF, and WHO, the Government of Bangladesh will give Vitamin A capsule with polio vaccination during 1st round of 17th NID.

It is a cost effective model for other countries that are struggling to achieve and maintain high coverage of vitamin A supplementation and polio vaccination. Vitamin A deficiency poses a major threat to the health and survival of children and mothers. It is now known that vitamin A deficiency increases the risk of child deaths from diseases such as measles and diarrhoea. These infections contribute to over 25 per cent of deaths among children aged 1-5 years in Bangladesh.

Since the detection of the poliovirus in March, 2006 there have been six round of polio NIDs in 2006 and 4 rounds in 2007 and in each round it reached between 95 per cent and 98.2 per cent of under-five children in the country. The highest ever coverage (98.2) was achieved during 15th and 16th NIDs conducted in 2007.Due to efforts of the government and partners in Bangladesh, coverage of vitamin A supplementation in Bangladesh increased from around 50 percent in the mid-1990s to above 95 per cent in recent years. This tremendous achievement of administering OPV and Vitamin-A is the result of the combined efforts of multi sectoral involvement of the Government of Bangladesh and other non-governmental organizations.

“This particular NID round is sure to go much beyond containing the recurrence of polio alone. But through combining vitamin A supplementation, it will be able to reduce a host of other illnesses that pose threats to the lives of children in Bangladesh,” said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Bangladesh Representative.

Implementing this huge campaign would not have been possible without the joint commitment of the Government of Bangladesh, particularly the EPI and Institute of Public Health Nutrition (IPHN), under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, he added.

The Honourable Advisor to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Dr. AMM Shawkat Ali addressed a press briefing on 27 November 2008, Thursday, before formally inaugurating the 17th round of the NIDs today (Friday).

Supporting of the Government of Bangladesh to achieve polio eradication is a priority for WHO and Bangladesh has successfully stopped transmission of wild poliovirus for two years since its importation from neighbouring country. But the threat of re-importation of the polio virus still exist. Therefore we need to sustain our achievements in the previous NIDs along with the routine EPI coverage, particularly in hard-to–reach area, said Dr. Duangvadee Sungkhobol, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Bangladesh. She also highlighted the advantages of administering Vitamin A for prevention of night blindness and albendazole for deworming during NIDs which would likely to have an impact on health and survival of children.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) works with governments around the world to reduce the incidence of polio and is spearheaded by the WHO, Rotary International, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF.