Afghanistan launches polio vaccination campaign backed by Taliban

Kabul, Dec 13 (EFE).- Afghanistan on Monday launched a fresh vaccination campaign with an aim to inoculate 9.9 million children against polio, amid high hopes to eradicate the highly infectious paralyzing disease, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.

The four-day campaign, the second to be backed by the Taliban since they seized control of the country in August, targets children aged 0-59 months across Afghanistan.

“We are intensifying efforts to reach the maximum number of children across the country, but we need sustained access to rapidly build immunity against polio, especially in areas we have not been able to reach in the last few years,” said Dapeng Luo, the World Health Organization representative in Afghanistan.

Before the Taliban takeover, immunization campaigns were hindered mainly due to the fundamentalists’ opposition to door-to-door vaccination in areas under their control, and the conflict in the Asian country.

In November, Afghanistan kicked off the first phase of the nationwide vaccination drive against polio that saw some 8.5 million children under the age of five inoculated, including 2.4 million children who were immunized for the first time in more than three years.

“The November campaign was a massive leap forward and the upcoming campaign will further strengthen the progress we are making. Six more campaigns are planned for 2022 and we must ensure they are implemented timely and reach all children,” Luo stressed.

UNICEF explained that this is the “best opportunity to interrupt transmission of wild poliovirus” as Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan, has reported few infections.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are currently the only two countries where the poliovirus is still in transmission, with dozens of cases recorded among children under the age of five annually.

In 2021, however, Afghanistan has reported only four cases.

One of the main concerns of the UN agencies is to protect health workers against attacks they often suffer.

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