Mobilising against the polio outbreak in Papua New Guinea

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A frontline look at how the Papua New Guinea Government is responding to the country’s recent polio outbreak

PNG polio vaccine 2
Gavi/2018/Brendan Esposito

At Malahang health clinic near Lae in Morobe Province, a health worker administers the oral polio vaccine (OPV) at a supplementary vaccination session targeting children under five years.
As part of the health ministry’s response to Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) recent polio outbreak, four additional rounds of OPV vaccination are planned in Morobe, Madang and Eastern Highlands provinces.

PNG polio vaccine 5
Gavi/2018/Brendan Esposito

An aerial view near Lae, Morobe Province. PNG’s first polio outbreak since 1996 was first identified at Lae. Low immunisation coverage rates, poor water sanitation and hygiene all contributed to cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV).

PNG polio vaccine 7
Gavi/2018/Brendan Esposito

Officer-in-charge Daisy Basa (centre) checks a child’s vaccination card at the Malahang Health Clinic.
More than 2900 health workers, vaccinators and volunteers have been mobilised to vaccinate almost 300,000 children under five years old in Morobe, Madang and Eastern Highlands provinces.

PNG polio vaccine 6
Gavi/2018/Brendan Esposito

Traditionally dressed locals provide entertainment for families attending the supplementary vaccination sessions at Malahang health clinic.
A national public awareness campaign played a key part in the Government’s comprehensive response to the polio outbreak, helping maximise vaccine coverage of children under five years old.

PNG polio vaccine 1
Gavi/2018/Brendan Esposito

OPV is being provided free of charge to children living in the three affected provinces through local health centres and vaccination posts.

PNG polio vaccine 3
Gavi/2018/Brendan Esposito

The National Department of Health (NDOH) is leading efforts to limit the spread of the disease, in collaboration with WHO, GPEI and other partners.
As well as the supplementary vaccination sessions, the National Public Health Emergency plan includes strengthening surveillance systems for early virus detection.

PNG polio vaccine 4
Gavi/2018/Brendan Esposito

A mother and her child attend the supplementary OPV immunisation session at Malahang health clinic.
To eliminate the risk of vaccine-derived polio cases, the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan calls for the phased removal of OPV by 2019, with all countries introducing at least one dose of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) into their routine immunisation schedule before the transition. PNG introduced the IPV with Gavi support in August 2015.

PNG polio vaccine 8
Gavi/2018/Brendan Esposito

Vaccine supplies are loaded into the cold room at the Morobe Province supply store in Lae.
PNG has a bespoke plan in place to boost routine immunisation by 2020 in partnership with Gavi, WHO, UNICEF, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Bank and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This provides funding to strengthen cold chain infrastructure, health systems and immunisation service delivery, as well as facilitate technical assistance and vaccination campaigns.

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