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Maldives introduces injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV)

MALE’, 03 March 2015 – Maldives today introduced the injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) into its routine immunization schedule, in a key step to accelerate global eradication of polio.

Despite the certification of South-East Asia as polio-free in March 2014, the risk persists until the disease is eradicated globally. The universal introduction of IPV is part of a global plan to eradicate polio and secure recent gains towards a polio-free world through stronger immunization systems.

World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have supported the Government of the Maldives to become the second country in South-East Asia to introduce IPV. Nepal introduced the vaccine in September 2014.

Introduction of at least one dose of IPV into the childhood immunization programme is part of the Global Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan that aims to complete the eradication, containment and certification of all polioviruses by 2018. All the countries in the world that currently use only the oral polio vaccine (OPV), are now introducing one dose of IPV into the childhood immunization schedule to maximize the protection of children from polio.

Oral polio vaccine has been the key tool for polio eradication since 1988. The WHO South-East Asia region, comprising Maldives and 10 other countries, was certified polio-free on 27 March 2014.  Globally only three countries remain endemic for polio – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

“Until the disease is fully eradicated from the remaining endemic hotspots, the best possible way to protect your children from the risk of contracting polio and life-long paralysis is to use vaccine for developing immunity against the virus,” said Dr Akjemal Magtymova, WHO Representative to the Republic of Maldives. “The introduction of IPV to the routine immunization schedule is a vital step in the journey to securing a polio-free world for all future generations to come.”

UNICEF Representative to Maldives, Alice Akunga, said the introduction of IPV is an important step. “This introduction is a critical development for the global fight to eradicate polio and a healthy future of our children – and is the first step not only to a world free from polio, but ensure that in Maldives, polio does not return, creating an environment where no child will ever be paralyzed by this terrible disease.”

Maldives has been polio-free since 1981 with no indigenous cases detected since then (though there was a single imported case reported in 1994). IPV introduction is the latest step by Maldives that has made tremendous progress in improving child health and survival in the last 25 years. In the last 20 years, under-5 mortality in the country has been significantly reduced[1] – in large part due to improvements in the childhood immunization programme. Maldives achieved universal immunization coverage in 1988 – two years before the target of 1990.[2] These achievements have been thanks to the tireless efforts of community members, the Community Health Workers, and the Government and its partners WHO and UNICEF.

Introduction of IPV will maximize children’s immunity to polio virus, and maintain the country’s polio-free status. IPV has been proven to be an extremely safe and effective vaccine and has been used successfully in developed countries for several decades. It is important to note that IPV is recommended in addition to the oral vaccine and does not replace the oral vaccine.

IPV is administered to children at 6 months of age by intramuscular injection by a trained health worker at established health facilities. The Ministry of Health of Maldives has successfully conducted orientation for all heath workers in all 20 atolls, including islands on IPV administration. The IPV vaccine has been distributed to all atoll and island hospitals, and will be given to children everywhere from today.

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UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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