BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour Tuesday announced the third phase of a nationwide campaign to vaccinate children in Lebanon against polio.
“Following to advice of the national committee on fighting polio, the Health Ministry decided to organize this national campaign that seeks to provide vaccination for all children [in Lebanon] aged between one and five regardless of whether they have been previously vaccinated,” Abu Faour said.
The six-day round of free vaccination, the third in a period of five months, will start on March 10.
The campaign was launched after 25 polio cases in Syria were verified by global health organizations. The previous phases of the campaign took place in November and December.
The minister said that it is estimated that more than 600 Lebanese children would receive the vaccination. Palestinian and Syrian children would also be vaccinated, he said.
Families will be asked to accompany their child to the closest medical center while UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, will handle the vaccination of Syrian refugee children.
Abu Faour, quoting Health Ministry estimates, said 98 percent of children in Lebanon have already been vaccinated against polio.
During a news conference at the Lebanese University, Abu Faour also hailed the efforts of his predecessors in the Health Ministry.
He praised them particularly for their efforts in preventing the spread of polio and said “ Lebanon has been free of this disease for more than 12 years.”
Waves of Syrian refugees began to cross the border into Lebanon shortly after the outbreak of unrest in Lebanon’s neighbor in March 2011.
There are around 960,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, according to latest U.N. figures.
The poliovirus is highly contagious and usually spreads through the ingestion of infected fecal matter through contaminated water or food, or even by unwashed hands.
It can also spread through water droplets from a sneeze or cough. The disease causes severe paralysis, which can be fatal when it affects vital muscle function in the heart and lungs.