As the Health Ministry’s oral polio vaccine campaign reaches the half-way mark in the South – at 50,000 children born after January 1, 2004, vaccinated – it is gearing up to start a three-month-long effort to vaccinate children in the rest of the country starting on Sunday.

In all, one million children aged up to nine years and eight months will receive the two drops of oral polio vaccine at tipat halav (“well-baby”) clinics.

Schoolchildren will be vaccinated in schools after the summer vacation. While tipat halav clinics in the South will be open on Fridays and close later then usual on weekdays for the next two months, those designated for giving the vaccine in the rest of the country will observe normal hours.

The vaccination campaign is meant to prevent children who received the injectable polio vaccinate from infecting those who have not yet received their shots, including adults with weak immune systems – due to chronic disease.

The wild polio virus was identified this past spring during routine tests in sewage treatment plants in the South.

There are an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 healthy carriers of polio.

So far, no one has been infected with the paralytic disease.

According to the ministry, the virus appears to have entered the country from Egypt.

The Jerusalem Municipality said that it has 130,000 children aged two months to nine years and eight months who are targeted for the oral polio vaccine, including children of foreign workers. The oral polio vaccine will be given at eight well-baby centers in west Jerusalem and at three in east Jerusalem between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

In addition, there will be a special duty center for newborn babies, premature babies and urgent tests, the municipality said.

The centers will offer the injectable polio vaccinate to children who have not yet had their shot, and hand out information on hygiene. The public are urged to wash their hands after visiting the toilet and diapering babies and before meals. Jerusalemites can call (02) 629-8041 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. for more information.

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality announced that it too is ready to begin its OPV campaign, even though many municipality workers are on vacation. Check the municipality website or call the city’s general number 106 for more details.

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