The Health Minister has decided to administer an advanced form of the oral polio vaccine to 150,000 children in southern Israel following a 3-day visit from World Health Organization officials. The vaccine is administered in oral drops, not an injection form.
They and an official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control were in Israel to see what the Jewish State is doing to prevent the possible spread of poliomyelitis – a disease once considered “dead.”
The decision to spend “several million shekels” for nearly one million doses of the “live attenuated” vaccine came after the live virus had been detected in February in routine samples of sewage extracted from the Negev Bedouin city of Rahat.
Health Minister Yael German and other officials stressed there was “no reason to panic” as there has not been even one case of the clinical form of poliomyelitis – the type that causes paralysis.
But the decision to administer oral polio vaccine (OPV) was made after consulting with the foreign experts.
No Israeli children under age eight have received a Sabine OPV, due to a decision to discontinue the vaccine when the disease was considered eradicated. But babies and young children do receive several doses of IPV – the Salk vaccine – in well baby clinics around the country.
Israel is one of only five countries in the world that routinely tests stool samples via 16 sewage treatment plants around the country.
WHO figures indicated there were an estimated 350,000 actual cases of polio in 125 endemic countries in 1988; but in the countries which routinely test for the disease, last year the number had dropped to only 223 reported cases.