Anti-Polio Operation to be Expanded to All of Israel

August 10, 2013  

The Ministry of Health decided on Friday that the operation to vaccinate children against the polio virus will be expanded to include children in all of Israel.

Until now, only children from southern Israel were given the vaccine.

As of Sunday, all children in Israel born from 2004 and onwards will be called to be vaccinated at the Tipat Halav well-baby clinics. The decision was made after the virus was found in samples taken from the wastewater treatment facilities in Lod and Ramle.

In a discussion held Friday, headed by Health Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid) and attended by professionals and members of the Health Ministry’s polio committee, it was decided that in light of sewage samples taken this past week, it was necessary to expand the vaccination operation.

Fears of a polio outbreak were sparked earlier in the summer when the virus turned up in sewage samples in the south.

Further testing showed that roughly 2.5% of children in southern Israel, where many children have not been vaccinated, carry the virus.

So far there have been no cases of children contracting the virus. Until now, about 20,000 children from southern Israel have been vaccinated against the virus.

While the operation got off to a smooth start, some parents have expressed concern over giving their children the vaccination.

“The drops contain the weakened virus, and health organizations around the world have agreed that the drops themselves can cause polio,” argued Mor Sagmon of the Association for Information on Vaccines.

In 1988 some children developed polio after being given an oral vaccine with a live strain of the virus, he said.

Sagmon argued that the vaccines currently being used in Israel have not been adequately tested. “This is a vaccine that was developed in India and has never been tried in a Western country,” he said.

The World Health Organization has expressed support for the ongoing immunization efforts in Israel. The organization’s website notes that it is “very rare” for the live strain used in the vaccine to reverse to the profile of wild polio, and that even then, it does not always lead to infectious poliomyelitis.

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