The Public Health Ministry is on full alert to administer the polio vaccine to Thai kids aged under five years old as almost 600 polio cases were recently detected in 22 countries, including Indonesia.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry, gave a statement after a meeting with the national communicable disease committee yesterday that Thailand has had no reports of polio cases for the past two decades.
He said polio is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. It lives in an infected person’s throat and intestines.
It is highly contagious and infects other people through contact, such as when a child touches an object that is contaminated with the faeces of an infected person and then the child touches their own mouth.
It can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions, he said.
The virus infects a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis, he added.
A global report showed that 30 people had caught the wild poliovirus in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Mozambique, while 577 in 22 countries caught the vaccine-derived poliovirus, which has mutated from the strain originally contained in the oral polio vaccine.
“Four cases, so far, have been reported in Indonesia. The meeting agreed with the proposal of the Department of Disease Control (DDC) to expedite vaccine administration to the target group and come up with a protocol to handle a possible outbreak,” said Dr Opas.
When asked if the vaccine-derived poliovirus is more severe than the wild strain, Dr Opas said the vaccine-derived strain could cause leg fatigue, but it is not as severe as the wild strain.
Dr Opas also stressed vaccine administration to the at-risk groups and instructed them to eat properly cooked food.
DDC director-general Dr Sophon Iamsirithavorn said the department had instructed every province to ensure the comprehensive administering of vaccines to Thai children aged below five years old and foreign children aged below 15 years old.
Normally, the vaccine coverage rate is more than 90%, Dr Sophon said.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the polio vaccine coverage was found to be lower than 90% in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and as well as in some districts of Songkhla. The DDC is trying to get it back on track.
Most poliovirus cases in other countries tended to occur in low vaccine coverage areas which were lower than 50%, he added.