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'Jordan polio-free despite rising number of cases in neighbouring countries'

By Khetam Malkawi - Nov 13,2016 - Last updated at Nov 13,2016

A child receives polio vaccination in Amman in November 2014 (Petra file photo)

AMMAN — Despite the registration of polio cases in some neighbouring countries and the refugee influx from these countries into Jordan, the Kingdom managed to stay a polio-free country in 2015, said a 

Ministry of Health report released Sunday.

The annual report covered services provided by the ministry last year and the number of health facilities across the Kingdom.

Ministry Spokesperson Hatem Azruie told The Jordan Times that maintaining Jordan as a polio-free country was due to the intensive vaccination campaigns launched in 2014 and 2015, when several cases were reported in neighbouring Syria.

A 2014 UNICEF report estimated that only 52 per cent of Syrian children were fully vaccinated against polio, down from a pre-war high of 99 per cent.

In 2013, 14 years after the last case of polio in Syria, 35 new cases were confirmed in that country, with an additional two cases identified in neighbouring Iraq.

In Jordan, the last polio case was registered in 1992, according to the ministry’s report.

A study released last week by the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET) also confirmed that.

The vigilance that Jordan has displayed in locating and vaccinating high-risk populations against poliovirus has been successful in maintaining high levels of vaccination coverage, the EMPHNET study concluded.

“This fact has maintained high population immunity and averted polio outbreaks despite the influx of Syrian refugees into the country,” EMPHNET said in a statement announcing the results of the study, titled “Estimating Population Immunity to Poliovirus in Jordan’s High Risk Areas”. 

“The use of IPV [inactivated polio vaccine] in the routine immunisation programme and the availability of this immunisation schedule free of charge for all children in Jordan, including Syrian refugees and any other nationality, have also contributed to the high immunity levels against polio viruses,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, the ministry's annual report said the school health programme was one of its priorities in 2015, with field visits conducted to 3,863 schools and more than 413,000 underwent medical check-ups.

Currently, there are 31 hospitals affiliated with the Health Ministry across the Kingdom, in addition to 675 healthcare centres, which include 99 comprehensive centres.

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