In response to a rising regional risk, parents in the governorates of Bethlehem and Jerusalem were encouraged to bring their children under the age of five to health institutions for an additional dosage of bivalent oral polio vaccination (bOPV) to improve their protection against poliovirus.
Unlike past polio campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) campaign was carried out through health institutions rather than door-to-door.
Round 1 challenged the fortitude of a community that is overwhelmingly pro-vaccine (regular immunization coverage in oPt is often between 98 and 100 percent), but parents, like everyone else, are juggling work, daycare, and other responsibilities.
A regular stream of clinic visitors piled out of mini buses and taxis after long treks in Biddo, a suburb in the Jerusalem governorate where a big UNRWA clinic serves both local and distant families.
“Even though travel from remote places such as Bani Samuel and Beit Iksa is difficult for two reasons, many Bedouins travel to us.” “First, the roads are bad, and second, there are multiple checkpoints that may require you to wait for hours,” said Tamam Taha, a nurse.
Parents had problems transporting their children to healthcare facilities in a lot of cases. Nidal Kandeel, the father of Janette, three, and Jolan, 21 months, arrived on crutches at the UNRWA health center in Biddo. I was injured on the job a year ago and am now permanently disabled. “It was difficult for me to come here using public transportation,” he said, “but I’m here because I know how important it is for my children to get the polio vaccine.”
Following the campaign, nursing teams will cross-reference vaccinated children’s records with patient lists from health care facilities. Unvaccinated children’s parents will be alerted, and efforts will be made to reach them through in-clinic follow-up or outreach. The second wave is planned for mid-to-late June, to increase immunization rates in these two governorates.
Palestine has been polio-free for nearly 25 years because of a solid routine immunization program and a strong culture of vaccine acceptance. Following the detection of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 3 (cVDPV3) in sewage outflow from inside the green line mixed with Bethlehem and Jerusalem wastewater, the Palestinian Ministry of Health launched vaccination campaigns in the most vulnerable locations.
The initiative was supported by the Palestine offices of WHO, UNICEF, and UNRWA. The World Health Organization’s Palestine office aided the Ministry in developing and implementing this program, drawing on extensive knowledge from our regional polio eradication campaign.