THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF MALAWI STATEMENT SUPPORTING THE POLIO VACCINE CAMPAIGN
TUESDAY, 15TH MARCH 2022
We the Catholic Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi wish to bring to the attention of all Catholics and people of goodwill that on 17th February 2022, the Malawi Government declared a National Public Health Emergency in response to the outbreak of Poliomyelitis, commonly shortened to Polio, after a case was detected in Lilongwe. The last Polio case in Malawi was reported thirty years ago in 1992 and Malawi obtained a Polio free status in 2005 while the World Health Organisation (WHO) African Region received its Polio free status
certificate in 2020.
Polio is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus and it can be passed from one person to another through ingestion of food or water which is contaminated with the poliovirus. Poliovirus causes irreversible paralysis disease mainly in children from zero to fifteen years of age. There is no cure for polio. The disease is preventable through polio vaccine. However, multiple doses are required for it to be effective.
The current outbreak of polio is a setback to the efforts and progress made on eradication of polio in the country. In line with the WHO guidance and the International Health Regulations (IHR), Malawi has put in place response activities to contain the situation in the country including a nationwide vaccination campaign set to commence on 21st March 2022.
Malawi is set to vaccinate approximately 2.9 million children under the age of five in a nationwide polio vaccination campaign. All children under the age of five are expected to receive four rounds of the polio vaccine regardless of prior vaccination status, to achieve full protection from polio. The first-round campaign is expected to start from 21st March 2022 and the rest will take place in April, May and June 2022.
We, the Catholic Bishops in Malawi, support the Mass Polio Vaccine Campaign set to start this month. This vaccination campaign comes amidst the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. We assure all Catholics and the general Malawian population of the importance and safety of the Polio vaccine in preventing further spread of the poliovirus as per the assurance of the Ministry of Health and our interaction with them.
We urge all Catholics and people of goodwill at different leadership levels, including Priests, Sisters, Brothers, Parishes, Outstations/Sub-stations and Small Christian Communities to encourage parents and guardians to take their children or wards under the age of five to receive the vaccine once the campaign starts.
We also appeal to the Health officials to ensure that the vaccine is locally available so that people do not travel long distances. We further encourage traditional and political leaders to join this campaign for a safer Malawi.
Most Reverend George Tambala President, Archbishop of Lilongwe and Apostolic Administrator of Zomba
Right Reverend Montfort Stima, Vice President and Bishop of Mangochi
Most Reverend Thomas Msusa, Archbishop of Blantyre
Right Reverend Martin Mtumbuka, Bishop of Karonga
Right Reverend Peter Musikuwa, Bishop of Chikwawa
Right Reverend John Ryan, Bishop of Mzuzu
Right Reverend Peter Chifukwa, Bishop of Dedza