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In light of a successful polio vaccination campaign in recent months, the health ministry said on Thursday it would stop administering the vaccine to children over the age of six.

The statement said the decision was made after surveys showed vaccination rates among children aged six weeks to 18 months – considered a high-risk group for the virus – stood at 99%.

Vaccination rates among children in this age group stood at 81 percent in March, when the first clinical case of polio in Israel in 34 years was detected in an unvaccinated 4-year-old girl. She was hospitalized at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, then transferred to a specialist hospital after the virus damaged her muscles.

Among all ages nationwide, polio vaccination rates currently stand at 85%, the health ministry said, calling the rise in vaccines provided since March “impressive”.

Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the ministry, said Israel was seeing the “disappearance of polio”, which she said was “really good news”.

The ministry said the last positive test for polio was in Jerusalem and was taken on May 30. No tests have been positive since, Alroy-Preis said, stressing that was the result of the ministry’s campaign. While the virus has always been detected in Jerusalem’s sewage system, the rate of such finds has also dropped, the ministry said.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Ministry of Health, announces the success of Israel’s vaccination campaign against the polio virus, July 7, 2022. (GPO/Ministry of Health)

The most important achievement of the campaign, Alroy-Preis said, is that “no new clinical cases have been detected since the start of the campaign”, adding that “we have seen a vaccination rate of 100% in within the Haredi community in Jerusalem”.

The ministry added that it was fully coordinated with the World Health Organization throughout the campaign and was “praised” for its “speed in organisation, decision-making and communication with the public”. .

After the first case detected in March, several other children tested positive for the virus but remained asymptomatic.

Despite the low number of cases, the WHO declared at the time that it was an epidemic, because developed countries should be completely polio-free and any diagnosed case raises concerns about the spread.

This led to the Ministry of Health‘s intense vaccination campaign, which is now coming to an end.

“The vaccination campaign went very well and it boosted protection against the disease in a way that was much needed,” said Dr. Michal Shtein, director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Unit at Sheba Medical Center, to The Times of Israel earlier today. the week.

“Today, there is still a vulnerability to polio in Israel, but the risk of any specific person contracting polio is low,” said Professor Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist at Hebrew University and president of the Association. Israeli public health doctors. “There is now better protection for toddlers, who can play an important role in the spread of polio.”

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