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Namibians to Be Vaccinated Against Polio Outbreak


Namibia's more than two million people will be vaccinated against polio within the next two months, following an outbreak of the disease that has killed 10 people and infected 60 more. Health authorities are trying to stop the disease spreading to other countries.

The disease was first reported last month in the Namibian capital Windhoek, but has since spread to eight of the country's 13 provinces, killing 10 and infecting a further 60 people.

The U.N. Children's Education Fund says the disease is likely to have come from Angola and spread rapidly amongst disadvantaged communities.

UNICEF country director Khin Sandi Lwin says there is concern that the disease could spread to other countries.

"Just as this outbreak the virus has been, the virus has most likely been imported from Angola, it is the same strain, the likelihood that it can go to other neighboring countries is high so with such a major outbreak in Namibia we really need to contain it quickly," said Lwin.

UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and Namibian Health Department, have embarked on a massive vaccination campaign. More than three million doses of vaccine have been imported into the country.

During the next two months Namibia's entire population and any visitors will be given the vaccine, and Lwin says much of the campaign will focus on adults.

"Routine vaccinations that have been going on since independence 15 years ago have concentrated on the most vulnerable age group which is under five years old," said Lwin. "So after 16 years of protecting children, the adult population that did not get vaccinated prior to independence when they were children are vulnerable so we are getting this outbreak mainly in adults."

But Lwin is confident the vaccination campaign will be successful.

"Once you get the whole population or majority of the population vaccinated and protected then you are protecting the environment and you can contain the spread rapidly and that means that Namibia will be just as safe as it was before," Lwin said.

But while this might resolve the situation for Namibia, Lwin says authorities must remain vigilant against polio.

"It is making a comeback in certain countries that have not been able to bring up their routine immunization. Up to, you know, the level of effectiveness and efficiency, and the cases have been increasing over the past couple of years which is of concern."

The mass vaccinations are to begin next Wednesday.