Syria begins childhood polio, measles immunization campaign

UNICEF announced on Wednesday that a mass immunization campaign in Syria implemented by the Ministry of Health was underway to protect young children from measles and polio.

The campaign, which ran from November 26 through Wednesday, involved approximately 4,000 health workers. The goal was to immunize the approximately 2.5 million children under the age of five against polio in addition to two million children against measles, Healio reports.

Infants also received multivitamin syrup and paracetamol.

As a result of escalations of the conflict in Syria, national vaccination coverage dropped from 95 percent to 80 percent during the first quarter of 2012. The rates likely dropped even further since the first quarter, according to UNICEF.

"The toughest job has been for the drivers who have had to collect supplies in Damascus and then deliver them, often by circuitous routes, to campaign workers across the country," Iman Bahnasi, a child survival and development specialist with UNICEF Syria, said. "But thanks to their determination and courage, all governorates have received the supplies they need."

The vaccinations took place at approximately 1,200 primary healthcare centers and with more than 100 mobile vaccination teams. The campaign used a combination of SMS messages, TV coverage and health education sessions to encourage parents to bring their children to be vaccinated.

UNICEF and the World Health Organization both supported the vaccination campaign, Healio reports.