Polio vaccination
Polio vaccination Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel on Monday launches a mass campaign in the south of the country to vaccinate 200,000 children up to nine years old against polio, Health Minister Yael German said.

"The decision to proceed with a vaccination campaign was taken after it was found that between 1,000 and 2,000 people living in southern Israel are carriers of the virus, without themselves being sick," she told Channel 2 television.

"We have already ordered 500,000 doses of vaccine from abroad and are ready to order 500,000 more if necessary in the coming weeks," German said.

She said the entire population could be vaccinated if the measures taken in the south do not prevent polio cases from appearing elsewhere.

The vaccine – in the form of two drops administered orally on the tongue – will be made available at 1,000 pharmacies.

Channel 2 also reported that a World Health Organisation representative will be involved in the vaccination campaign.

The polio virus had been detected in sewage at communities in the south. It is quite probable that it arrived in Israel from Pakistan. Polio was almost extinct ten years ago, but a paranoid Muslim official in Nigeria brought it back to life.

According to a leading expert on Islam, Daniel Pipes, Ibrahim Datti Ahmed, president of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria and a physician, suggested in mid-2003 that the vaccination program in his country was part of a Western conspiracy to render Muslim children infertile.

“His call for an end to the polio immunization campaign touched a nerve and spread to other Muslim religious leaders in Nigeria, causing the vaccination process to slow down and incidences of the disease to pick up.

“From Nigeria, this dual phenomenon of conspiracy theory and re-appearance of the disease then expanded to Muslims internationally,” wrote Pipes.

Dr. Nima Abid, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Pakistan, said recently that the virus detected in Israel was "definitely" from Pakistan, since “The virus genotype (genetic make-up) is the same as prevalent in Pakistan and this is what the research has indicated."

“We don’t have details how the virus travelled all the way to Israel," he said.