Vac­ci­nate against po­lio ‒ Health Min­is­ter


Health Min­is­ter, Dr Aaron Mot­soaledi, has called on par­ents and care­givers to have ev­ery child un­der the age of five years vac­ci­nated against po­lio.

“As long as a sin­gle child re­mains un-vac­ci­nated from this po­ten­tially fa­tal in­fec­tious dis­ease, all other chil­dren at­tend­ing school with him or her are at risk of con­tract­ing po­lio, hence we rec­om­mended that chil­dren un­der the age of five be im­mu­nised against this most com­mon child­hood dis­eases at the near­est health care fa­cil­ity,” said Mot­soaledi.

Po­lio is caused by a small germ called the po­lio virus and can lead to per­ma­nent lame­ness, de­for­mity and even death.

How­ever, due to rou­tine im­mu­ni­sa­tions in child­hood, po­lio has not been seen in South Africa since 1989, but there have been out­breaks of po­lio in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

Po­lio can eas­ily be im­ported and spread in a po­lio-free coun­try if all chil­dren have not been fully vac­ci­nated.

Signs and symp­toms

The ini­tial signs and symp­toms of po­lio in­clude fever, fa­tigue, headache, vom­it­ing, con­sti­pa­tion or less com­monly di­ar­rhoea, neck stiff­ness and pain in the limbs. In most se­vere cases, the po­lio virus at­tacks the mo­tor neu­rons of the brain stem, re­duc­ing breath­ing ca­pac­ity and caus­ing dif­fi­culty in swal­low­ing and speak­ing.

Without ad­e­quate res­pi­ra­tory sup­port, this form of po­lio, called bul­bar po­lio, can re­sult in death. Po­lio vac­ci­na­tion is part of the ex­panded pro­gramme of im­mu­ni­sa­tion. It is of­fered at birth, six weeks, ten weeks and 14 weeks.

“Im­mu­ni­sa­tions for child­hood vac­cine pre­ventable dis­eases are avail­able free of charge at all times at pub­lic health fa­cil­i­ties, hence we urge all par­ents and care givers to bring along the Road to Health Book­let when they take their chil­dren for im­mu­ni­sa­tions,” Mot­soaledi said. Par­ents who don't have or lost the health book­let can talk to their health­care providers, be­cause it is is­sued free of charge.


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