The Health Ministry has launched a polio vaccination campaign for children across the country ages six weeks to 17 years, the ministry announced at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
The announcement comes against the backdrop of a number of polio cases being detected in Israeli children, all of whom were unvaccinated. As of April, at least eight children in Israel have been found to have polio, seven of whom have no symptoms. The poliovirus was detected in sewage samples taken from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas after a four-year-old child exhibited symptoms of the disease in early March.
According to the Health Ministry, the vaccination campaign is crucial to the Israeli public, particularly children and teens, as many of them have not received the polio vaccine as part of their standard scheduled vaccinations.
Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash expressed hope that the campaign will result in the polio vaccination rate across the country reaching 90%. He said that the higher the immunization level, the less chance there is for new variants to develop.
In light of the recent increase in polio cases in Israel, the World Health Organization has added the Jewish state to the list of countries experiencing polio outbreaks, from which Israel was removed over 30 years ago.
“We are in the midst of a polio outbreak in the State of Israel. It comes from unvaccinated populations and we see from sewage tests that there are more locations with positive samples,” said Ash. “The outbreak of the disease can be prevented by completing the course of vaccinations to overtake the progression of the infection.”
Shortly after the campaign was launched, Clalit Health Services announced that it was launching its part in the vaccination push and invited parents of children up to the age of 17 to schedule vaccination appointments.
The vaccines can be received at either Clalit’s child health centers or at its infant centers to receive the oral vaccine.
“We call on parents and children to come with the immunization booklet and complete all the vaccine doses required for full protection,” said Clalit Nursing Division head and vaccination campaign leader Ruth Baruch. “It is in our hands to stop the further spread of the virus.”