Health Ministry Panel Urges Restoration of Live Polio Vaccine for Israeli Kids

Inoculation with the live, weakened oral polio virus should become a part of the regular array of vaccines administered to children, experts say.

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Inoculation with the live, weakened oral polio virus (OPV) should be restored to the regular array of childhood inoculations, two Health Ministry committees of experts decided on Friday. The ministry’s inoculations committee and its advisory committee on dealing with polio made the recommendation after their first meeting since the polio virus resurfaced in Israel and an inoculation campaign began in August.

While inoculation with the inactived polio virus (IPV) is important in preventing polio - especially during the current wave of the virus - committee members said that given the circumstances in Israel, with a wild strain of polio present, IPV alone is not enough. The recommendations have been passed on to the health minister and heads of the ministry.

The ministry responded that the recommendations would be given the most serious consideration.

Since the national OPV inoculation campaign began on August 18, some 850,000 children have been inoculated out of the targeted 1.3 million children. Early last week, the ministry launched another campaign to encourage people to have their children inoculated, in light of the holiday season pushing the subject to the back burner.

The campaign sparked widespread public debate over the necessity and efficacy of inoculation with OPV. In 2004, OPV was taken off the normal panel of inoculations, replaced by IPV. When the virus was discovered in sewage systems in Israel in May, the theoretical possibility was brought up of restoring OPV to the normal inoculation schedule of babies and children; however, the advisory committee did not officially discuss the matter before last week.

According to Health Ministry figures, the virus is still present in sewage treatment plants in the towns/cities of Be’er Sheva, Rahat, Tel Sheva, Kseifa, Shoket and Arara. It is present intermittently in the sewage systems in Jaljulya, Ramle, Kiryat Gat and Lod.

In Jerusalem, Baka al-Garbiyeh and Iron, the virus seems to have disappeared from the sewage system, but its intermittent appearance requires ongoing testing.

A little girl gets vaccinated against polio.Credit: AP

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