polio vaccine illustrative 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas)
The Health Ministry will apparently announce on Sunday if and when it will begin
a campaign to give attentuated- virus vaccine in drop form to children in the
South to wipe out the wild polio virus that has been present in sewage since
A press conference has been scheduled for Sunday at 1:30
The deputy director of the Health Ministry’s public health branch,
Dr. Udi Kaliner, conceded on Wednesday that it would be a “major challenge” to
persuade hundreds of thousands of parents in the South to bring their children
for an additional dose of oral polio vaccine in August after the vast majority
had already received the killed-virus injectable vaccine.
Some six weeks
after officials announced the possibility of vaccinating children with oral
polio vaccine, he said the ministry had “not yet decided” whether to actually do
“It won’t be easy,” Kaliner added, referring to an oral vaccination
The ministry’s associate director- general, Dr. Boaz Lev,
appearing Wednesday night on Channel 2, confirmed that the decision had yet to
be taken but “would be made soon.”
Lev denied a report by the channel’s
health reporter that the ministry had already decided to vaccinate all Israeli
The reporter, Yoav Even, also said that the World Health
Organization had issued a vaccination advisory for travelers heading to Israel,
but no such statement was available on the WHO website and Lev did not confirm
this. Lev did say, however, that Israel was safe for tourists and that few
countries had such high coverage by the polio vaccine.
“No one has taken
sick with polio, but we want to get rid of the virus completely,” he
This can be done if the oral vaccine is given, he explained,
because there is a very small chance that someone who is not protected could
contract the virus through contact with stools via the gastroenterological
Since April, when the first signs of wild polio virus were found
in sewage in Beduin communities in the Negev, not a single case of paralytic
polio has been reported. But about 23 healthy carriers of the virus have been
identified among 1,000 residents of the South who were tested, and Lev said it
is feared that they in turn could infect those who are unprotected, resulting in
actual cases of polio.
Kaliner said that although over 98 percent of all
Israeli children have already been vaccinated against polio in the form of
shots, an improved oral vaccine would help protect family members and the very
small part of the population that was never vaccinated.
“Our aim is to
protect not only the unvaccinated, including newborns who have not yet been
vaccinated, but also older members of the family who don’t have adequate
protection,” he added.
Kaliner explained that the delay in reaching a
decision was due to the time it takes to collect data on the wild virus in
sewage, consult with visiting experts from the World Health Organization, and
order and receive the vaccine.
The Health Ministry’s director- general,
Prof. Ronni Gamzu, met with local officials in the South on Wednesday to explain
the situation and answer their questions. The ministry said the officials
expressed their willingness to cooperate if and when a voluntary vaccination
campaign was launched.
After Gamzu collects and assesses all data, he
will recommend to Health Minister Yael German whether and whom to vaccinate in
the coming days.