Polio Virus Still Spreading, Found in Jerusalem Sewage for First Time

Israel's north has the highest vaccination rate, at 69%; Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are lagging well behind, with 19.8% and 5.15% respectively.

Dan Even
Dan Even
Dan Even
Dan Even

Weeks after the nation-wide, live-virus vaccination campaign against polio began, the wild polio virus is continuing to spread in the nation’s sewerage systems and has been discovered for the first time in Jerusalem’s wastewater treatment plant, the Health Ministry announced on Monday.

According to the ministry, the Jerusalem district has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the current immunization campaign, which began six weeks ago in the south of the country and nearly a month ago in the rest of the country. “The finding suggests that the virus has not yet been overcome and highlights the immediate need for completing the vaccination campaign against polio,” the ministry said in a statement.

Over half of the target population – children born in January 2004 or later – has received the two-drop attenuated virus vaccine that is the focus of the campaign. Of the 1,388,447 children nationwide defined as the target population, 51.85 percent, or 720,000 children, have been immunized.

The south, where the polio virus has been most frequently detected in the sewage systems, has registered a high rate of immunization - 65.8 percent – among the target population, as a result of the campaign. However, the vaccination rate in the north has been higher, at 69 percent. The sewage treatment plant at Irron, in Wadi Ara, is the northernmost point in the country where the wild polio virus has been found, as reported by the Health Ministry on August 27.

Lower immunization rates are being reported in the Haifa area (55.9 percent), Ashkelon (50.7 percent), and in the central region, including Judea and Samaria (43.2 percent). The rate is particularly low in the Tel Aviv district (26.9 percent) and lowest of all in the Jerusalem district (19.8 percent). The capital itself is reporting even lower vaccination rates among the target group of only 11.9 percent, while in Tel Aviv the vaccination rate has been extremely low, at 5.15 percent.

The Health Ministry noted, however, that vaccinations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are being administered in municipal well-baby clinics, whose updated data does not reach the ministry continuously. As a result, the ministry’s figures are probably lagging behind the actual vaccination rate.

An infant getting a polio jab in Beer Sheva. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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