The Health Ministry will be vaccinating children in the south of Israel against polio, after consultation with foreign experts, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.
After meeting with representatives from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, it was decided to take the unusual precautionary measure of giving 150,000 children an advanced type of oral vaccine (OPV). In addition, several million shekels have been allocated to order up to a million doses of the “live attenuated” vaccine if needed for vaccinating children and adults elsewhere in the country.
In a press conference held in the Knesset on Wednesday, Health Minister Yael German, director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu, public health chief Prof. Itamar Grotto and medical branch head Prof. Arnon Afek stressed there is “no reason to panic.” No one has actually been diagnosed with poliomyelitis, they said. But since traces of the live virus were detected in samples of sewage taken since February in the Negev, specifically in the Beduin town of Rahat, it was thought that vaccinations were called for to prevent any possible spread of the virus.
Polio, which has been nearly eradicated around the world, occasionally surfaces in various places. No death from polio has ever occurred in Israel, according to ministry sources.
However, about 25 years ago, 15 people came down with actual polio paralysis, all of whom became disabled. As a result, the ministry decided to give oral Sabin vaccine to everyone under the age of 40, and the outbreak stopped. Since no one has actually shown clinical symptoms, the current situation is less worrisome than the previous one and is not considered an “outbreak,” Gamzu noted.
Grotto noted that the best way to prevent the virus from spreading is to wash your hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom and diapering babies and before eating.