Calling on parents to vaccinate children up to age 10 with oral polio vaccine, President Shimon Peres disclosed Wednesday that one of his sons had contracted the paralytic disease as a baby – and recovered.

Peres accompanied Health Minister Yael German on a morning visit to the Jerusalem Municipality’s tipat halav (well-baby) station in the city’s East Talpiot neighborhood.

“One of my children was a victim of polio,” Peres told those present, including senior Health Ministry and municipality officials.

Although the president did not name the child, The Jerusalem Post learned that it was Yoni Peres.

“He was eight months old, and Sonia and I stood next to his crib as he burned with fever and shook from pain for three days and nights,” the president recalled. “We were very worried and helpless.

For more than a year and a half after that, he was paralyzed in his lower limbs.”

Fortunately Peres’s son went through months of rehabilitation and recovered.

“Today, he is healthy,” said the 90-year-old president. “I don’t wish such an experience on anybody. It was the most cruel experience I went through as a father. I call on all mothers and fathers to prevent such suffering in your children. You have the power to do so.”

He added that Israel had a highly advanced level of healthcare.

“Our doctors are among the best in the world. They are concerned only with your children’s welfare” when they recommend oral polio vaccine, he said, urging parents to “listen to them” and go for vaccination.

“I promise you that theirs is the most professional, humane and responsible advice you will get. We must vaccinate the children and do it as fast as possible to prevent the spread of the virus,” Peres said.

The wild polio virus was first detected at sewage treatment plants in the South last February. A few thousand healthy carriers are believed to have the virus, but as over 98 percent of the population has undergone killed-virus injections, no one has contracted the paralytic disease.

To prevent unprotected children or adults from taking sick, the Health Ministry launched an oral polio vaccine campaign in the South, where the wild virus was discovered, and then expanded it to the whole country.

The virus has been detected in sewage as far north as Hadera. It was also reported on Wednesday in Ofakim in the Negev for the first time.

German and ministry public health chief Prof. Itamar Grotto said that since August 5, nearly two-thirds of children in the South had received the two drops of oral vaccine. So far, more than 242,000 children around the country have received attenuated-virus vaccine.

German said that although the wild virus had apparently originated in someone arriving from Egypt, it had not been found in the Palestinian Authority.

“We are like an island in which a virus has erupted and spread, so there is a need to fight it and prevent the paralytic diseases from appearing,” said German.

Because of the high level of cooperation from parents, the ministry said it was expanding the opening hours of tipat halav centers around the country: They will be open until 8 p.m. in all cities, large towns and settlements.

Information about the hours is available by phone at *5400 or on the ministry’s website at http://www.health.gov.il/Subjects/vaccines/two_ drops/Pages/Vaccination_centers.aspx.


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