The Health Ministry decided over the weekend to offer oral polio vaccine to children up to the age of nine-and-a-halfyears starting on August 18 – and not to confine the current vaccination campaign to residents of the South.

The decision was taken by Health Minister Yael German, director-general Prof. Roni Gamzu and public health experts after the wild virus was found in sewage treatment plants in Lod and Ramle in the center of the not far from Tel Aviv.

Still, no one in Israel has contracted the actual paralytic disease, as over 98 percent of the country’s children had already been vaccinated with the injectable killed polio virus. The attenuated-virus contained in the oral vaccine protects others who have not been vaccinated – through the gastrointestinal system.

Parents should bring children to well-baby (tipat halav) community clinics during the week starting August 18. But the campaign comes at a time when large numbers of Israeli families are abroad or otherwise on vacation and children are not yet in school. The ministry had hoped that the campaign in the South would wipe out the wild virus.

So far, 28 polio virus carriers, including 26 children who had previously received the injectable virus, have been identified. Others were children up to the age of 10 and an adult man. All of them live in the South.

During the first week of the monthlong campaign in the South, about 20,000 children received the two drops of oral vaccine, about a fifth of the target population. At this rate, significant numbers will not be vaccinated.

Gamzu said the ministry intends to double the vaccination rate and reach half of the target population in the coming week.

Children born before January 1, 2004, have already received oral polio vaccine.

Thus those born before that date do not need it.

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