Haiti Begins Polio Vaccinations
May. 21, 2002
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Shaken by a recent deadly polio outbreak in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, volunteers on Monday placed drops of vaccine on children's tongues to start a nine-week inoculation campaign.
The July 2000-July 2001 outbreak on the island of Hispaniola was the first in the Americas since 1991. Thirteen children in the Dominican Republic and eight in Haiti contracted the disease. Two in Haiti died.
``Two drops of polio serum on the tongue and we can save a life,'' said Solange Alex, a 59-year-old nurse. ``We're very happy to help eradicate this paralyzing illness.''
Three-year-old Dmitri Dusse smiled after receiving the vaccine and said, ``I don't have to be afraid of fever.''
Patients receiving the vaccine develop a mild form of polio resulting in immunity. Researchers said the outbreak occurred when nonimmunized children came in contact with children who received the oral vaccine in 1998-1999.
``It is inadmissible that children continue dying for avoidable causes,'' said Sylvana Nzirorera, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, which is funding the campaign with the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.
The Dominican Republic campaign begins May 31.
The vaccination of Haiti's children has been irregular, health ministry official Claude Surena said.
Volunteers will inoculate schoolchildren nationwide before heading to slums and villages to inoculate children there against polio and measles.
The $700,000 campaign will inoculate 2 million children under 10.
``I'm happy polio won't paralyze my kids now,'' said Emmanuela Pierre, whose two children were inoculated at the Jul Nord school in Cite l'Eternel, a seaside slum where disease is commonplace.