Sabah steps up campaign against polio

KOTA KINABALU (BERNAMA) – Sabah is upgrading its polio-immunisation campaign into a major exercise to check the crippling childhood disease that has infected three children in just over a month.

“The immunisation campaign will be conducted on a large scale by the Sabah Health Department,” declared Sabah Health and People’s Well-being Minister Datuk Frankie Poon Ming Fung.

All children in the state below the age of five, including the children of immigrants, will be immunised against polio, he told reporters after launching the campaign in Pulau Gaya yesterday.

Malaysia’s Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, and Sabah Health Department director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi were also present at the event.

A three-month-old baby boy in Tuaran was detected to have been infected last December, 27 years after the last case was reported in Malaysia, in 1992.

It was announced yesterday that two boys, aged eight and 11, children of immigrants, were also infected, last November and December in Sandakan and Kinabatangan.

Polio is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented. Poon is resolute in making Sabah polio-free.

“We do not want any child in Sabah to be inadvertently left out of the immunisation exercise because there is no cure for the disease. So, I hope parents with children under five will get them immunised if they have not done so yet,” he said.

Poon said volunteers will visit identified areas to provide the polio vaccine free of charge.

“I am grateful to the Sabah Health Department which has been working hard to make the campaign a success and rid Sabah of the disease,” he said.

Noor Hisham said Pulau Gaya is the third area in Sabah to carry out the immunisation campaign after Tuaran and Telipok. At these two places, more than 2,000 children were immunised, he said.

“We will also conduct the campaign for immigrants in specific areas where their population is large. We want to ensure that their children are immunised against polio,” he said.

He also said that Malaysia will get the vaccine for the immigrants at a subsidised cost from Unicef as well as at a cheaper rate through collaboration with the Philippines.