After Polio Scare, Kids in Israel's South May Get Extra Inoculation

Planned boost comes after traces of the polio virus were detected in sewage around the south, including Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva.

Dan Even
Dan Even
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Dan Even
Dan Even

Following the discovery of traces of polio virus in sewage in the south, the Health Ministry is considering giving children in the region an additional polio inoculation due to the spread of the virus in communities in the south. The inoculation would be given to children up to age eight, and come in addition to the five doses they already receive.

The vaccine under consideration contains a weakened, live virus, which is considered more effective but also to have more side effects.

The Health Ministry now says that if the virus continues to spread, it will consider reinstituting inoculation in drops containing weakened, live virus, which it had discontinued after 2005, to children in the south and possibly elsewhere. The ministry says it would purchase a weakened-virus vaccine manufactured for the past three years and considered safer than previous vaccines.

The weakened virus administered in the past had been criticized as being communicable and causing numerous side effects.

The move comes after traces of the polio virus were detected in sewage around the south, including Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva. The Health Ministry believes that the traces originate in the Bedouin town of Rahat, after the virus was found in sewers there at the end of March.

The ministry has not received any reports of individuals contracting polio, but is continuing to pursue its polio vaccination in an effort to head off an outbreak.

The presence of the polio virus in Rahat’s sewage system is evidence that one or more residents of the town have been excreting the virus at its infectious stage.

According to Health Ministry statistics, which have been conveyed to the World Health Organization, 94 percent of Israelis have been vaccinated against polio. The ministry says that since it launched an inoculation campaign last week, there has been as much as a 10 percent rise in the number of inoculations at Health Ministry well-baby clinics, which account for two-thirds of all such clinics. A team from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control was in Israel recently to study the Health Ministry’s measure to curb the polio outbreak. After consulting with the international team, the ministry decided on the unusual step of conducting a feces survey in southern Israel to determine the extent of the spread of the virus. The number of waste treatment stations surveyed for the virus will also be upped from 16 to 32.

Health Ministry director-general Ronni Gamzu said the ministry was monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

A little girl gets vaccinated against polio.Credit: AP

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