The Health Ministry will embark on a polio inoculation campaign, it announced at the end of last week. The number of children to be inoculated is to be announced Sunday, but the figure so far under consideration is 150,000–200,000 children in the south up to nine and a half years old.
The campaign comes in response to a spread of the virus, first detected in May in the sewage system in the Negev town of Rahat, and subsequently elsewhere in the south and in communities in the Sharon area.
The decision was made after consultation with experts over the past few days, and due to concerns of health authorities in Europe of a spread of the polio virus from Israel to abroad. Representatives of the World Health Organization reportedly told Health Ministry officials at the end of the week that they support the campaign.
The children are to be inoculated with the same vaccine given in well-baby (Tipat Halav) clinics, which contains a weakened form of the virus. The goal is for this weakened form of the virus to be passed on to the people in the children’s immediate surroundings, thereby immunizing those who have not been inoculated in the past.
The decision to inoculate the children involves an ethical dilemma because the children themselves don’t need the inoculation – 94 percent to 96 percent were inoculated with the killed virus as part of the national inoculation program in well-baby clinics and schools (at six months, 1, 2, 4 and 6 years of age, and in the second grade).
The downside of the program is that the weakened form of the virus, while intended to protect previously unvaccinated people, poses a risk that they may actually contract the disease.