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19 Aug 2018 12:30
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  •   Home > News > International

    Polio vaccination campaign goes nationwide as country tries to prevent wider outbreak

    More than a million children will be vaccinated against polio in Papua New Guinea in the coming months as the government tries to avert a wider outbreak of the disease.

    More than a million children will be vaccinated against polio in Papua New Guinea in the coming months as the government tries to avert a wider outbreak of the disease.

    Three cases of poliovirus have been confirmed so far, with 55 suspected cases being investigated.

    Almost 300,000 children have already been vaccinated across three PNG provinces.

    "We know the exercise and we know how to map it out and I think our first round of success allows us to go further to the extra six provinces in the highlands and [in] September-October the rest of the country," said Sir Puka Temu, the PNG Minister for Health and HIV/AIDS.

    Nine provinces will be targeted in the next round of vaccinations.

    The country representative for the World Health Organisation in PNG, Dr Luo Dapeng, said there were already a million doses of vaccines in the country and they were working with other agencies to bring in more to complete the future campaigns.

    "We are in the process together [with the] National Department of Health, UNICEF, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative bringing [in] more vaccines."

    The government said delivering the vaccines to remote parts of the country would continue to be a challenge.

    The president of the PNG Society of Rural and Remote Health Dr David Mills said keeping the vaccines cold remained one of the biggest barriers to higher vaccination coverage in rural areas.

    "They have to be kept cold all along the delivery chain, what they call the cold chain, and cold chain takes some investment particularly in rural areas you obviously don't always have electricity available."

    Papua New Guinea was declared polio-free 18 years ago.

    Changes to visa requirements

    Those in PNG applying for a visa to Australia may now be required to provide a vaccination certificate as part of their application.

    The Australian Department of Home Affairs said special processing arrangements were put in place after Papua New Guinea was listed as an "outbreak country" by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in June.

    "These processing arrangements requests a polio vaccination certificate from all visa applicants who have spent 28 days or longer in countries that have the potential to spread the disease internationally, and are listed as polio endemic and outbreak countries, and are applying for a visa from outside of Australia, and are aged six weeks and over," a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told ABC's Pacific Beat Program.

    "The department … requests a valid vaccination certificate with the visa application to demonstrate the applicant has had their vaccination within the last 12 months."

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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