Health experts are encouraging persons above the age of 18 years
to get booster polio vaccines.
The call comes at a time when the country has an active vaccine-derived polio
outbreak. The outbreak was declared by the health minister last month after
positive samples were detected at water treatment sites in the country.
Investigations carried out by the health ministry to determine the
source of the disease are still inconclusive.
As government organizes to carry out a mass polio vaccination exercise
in October and November, vaccinologists are now encouraging adults who think
they might have been exposed to get booster doses.
According to scientists, while most adults were vaccinated against the
disease when they were children, the immunity provided for by the vaccines has
since been reduced and needs to be revamped.
Sharon Otoori, a vaccinologist at Jabez Vaccination Clinic says during
an outbreak, adults are as susceptible to being infected as children.
Otoori says this since oral polio vaccines that are widely used in
the country wear out after a specific period and do not offer protection forever.
In Uganda, four doses of polio vaccines are administered to
children, at birth, six, ten and fourteen weeks. The World Health Organization's
Expanded Programme of Immunization however recommends the consumption of more
than four doses in polio-endemic countries with poor hygiene practices for lifetime
Dr Immaculate Ampaire, the Deputy Manager of the Uganda National
Expanded Programme of Immunization says adults receiving the boosters are
She says due to a shortage of resources, the country cannot afford
to offer booster doses to adults.
"With polio, the more doses you get the better. Here we
usually target the vulnerable-the under-fives because of resources but in other
countries, they do vaccines for all. They vaccinate everyone entering. This is
the best practice really and the vaccine is safe," Dr Ampaire said.
According to Otoori, booster doses are normally taken by Ugandans who are going
abroad to work. On the market, there are two options for adults booster doses
available. One is Hexaxim-a combination of vaccines that protects against
diphtheria, tetanus, Pertussis, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis and Haemophilus influenza
type b conjugate vaccine.
The other option is getting a shot of the inactivated polio vaccine
(IPV) which is injected into the body. The hexaxim vaccine costs on average
180,000 shillings while the IPV can be accessed free of charge at all
government health facilities.
"Adults can go and get the jab but we normally do not focus on them
because we believe children are more at risk of being infected. But those
adults who need the jab can go and get it but this is at the discretion of the
health worker. If they think you need it, they might recommend it. It is on a
case by case basis," Dr Ampaire said.