CARACAS / PANAMA CITY, 14 July, 2019 – A mass polio vaccination campaign for more than 3.1 million children under the age of five in Venezuela started today, led by the Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“It is essential that every child in Venezuela is immunized against polio, because there is no cure for this devastating disease,” said UNICEF Venezuela Interim Representative Hervé de Lys. “The vaccination campaign starting today will be instrumental in keeping Venezuela polio-free tomorrow.”
More than 7,000 immunization points will be set up across the country to vaccinate all children under five years. In advance of the campaign, UNICEF procured and delivered more than 3.8 million doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) and 124,479 doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). The children’s agency also helped to produce radio and TV spots to disseminate lifesaving messages on immunization.
“Protecting children against this preventable disease is a moral imperative,” said María Cristina Perceval, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “The wellbeing of Venezuela’s children is above politics. UNICEF calls on all sides, parents, caregivers, and teachers to ensure all children get vaccinated.”
In 1994, the Americas was certificated as a region with no acute flaccid paralysis cases caused by polio, but the wild poliovirus remains a potential threat if vaccination is neglected or discontinued.
In addition to the polio vaccines procured for the campaign, UNICEF has provided almost 6.7 million doses of diphtheria vaccine, and 176,000 doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, in collaboration with partners across Venezuela so far in 2019.
According to UN estimates, about 3.2 million children need assistance inside the country. UNICEF requires US$32 million to provide children with access to health and immunization, water, education, nutrition and protection services. So far, just US$17.8 million has been received. Funding needs are likely to increase significantly in the coming weeks and months as UNICEF continues to scale up its response to the humanitarian needs in collaboration with Government and civil society partners.