Israel: Childhood Polio Vaccination Rate Reaches 96%

Recent cases of polio in Israel constitute an epidemic: WHO

Four months after the discovery of cases of poliomyelitis in Israel, the health authorities managed to considerably increase the rate of vaccination of babies, with vaccination coverage now close to 100%.

While the rate of the most important polio vaccines – namely the vaccine given between six and 18 months – stood at 81% in March before the appearance of polio in the country, this proportion is now 96% .

The first clinical case of polio in 34 years was discovered in an unvaccinated 4-year-old girl in March. First hospitalized at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, the girl was transferred to a specialized hospital after the virus damaged her muscles.

Several children subsequently tested positive for the virus, but all cases remained asymptomatic.

Although the number of cases detected in Israel is low, the World Health Organization has called them an epidemic, given that developed countries are expected to be completely polio-free.

The Ministry of Health has since launched an intense vaccination campaign which is now coming to an end. No new cases have been reported in recent weeks.

The ministry has taken a two-pronged approach to boosting polio immunity. One was to increase the use of the main polio vaccine, which is an inactivated vaccine (whose infectious agents have been killed).

The second prong was to promote the live attenuated vaccine, which was reintroduced in Israel in 2013 as an additional line of defense.

While the inactivated vaccine protects recipients against disease if they are exposed to the virus, the attenuated vaccine – given as oral drops – prevents them from spreading the virus, and is therefore considered a tool for mass protection.

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