600,000 Liberian children to get first measles and polio jabs since ebola hit

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A joint campaign by the Liberian government, WHO and UNICEF aims to vaccinate more than 600,000 children. UN Photo/Marie Frechon

Hundreds of thousands of Liberian children who missed out on life-saving vaccinations against polio and measles because of the ebola virus last year are to get the jabs at last, UN aid agencies said Friday.

A joint campaign by the Liberian government, World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF – the first since the ebola outbreak – aims to vaccinate more than 600,000 children against the two preventable diseases.

As the country prepares to declare itself ebola-free, WHO says one of the challenges is convincing parents that it's now safe to bring their children to health centres, as Daniel Johnson reports.

The announcement of the mass-immunisation programme follows a warning from Liberia's health ministry that disruption from ebola has created "an alarming immunity gap" there.

That's because while the killer disease was raging last year it was deemed too dangerous to hold mass vaccinations, which dropped 45 per cent compared with 2013.

World Health Organization said that ebola had disrupted health services and left huge numbers of children susceptible to measles and polio.

Here's WHO's Margaret Harris:

"Services have been overwhelmed and of course parents have been frightened also; the concern that health centres have been associated with ebola has kept parents away from having their children vaccinated, so we know that there's a large cohort of children who have missed their vaccinations for over a year."

The week-long campaign aims to protect 683,000 children against polio and more than 600,000 against measles.

Both diseases are preventable.

The country remains on course to be declared ebola-free on Saturday May the 9th, 42 days after the last confirmed case of the disease which has cost more than 11,000 lives.

But the country's health ministry says there is still a risk of transmission from neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'12"

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