On Sunday, an urgent call was issued by the Israel Pediatric Association (IPA) for the medical community and the government to respond aggressively and quickly to the ongoing polio outbreak.
The umbrella organization for the Israel Society for Clinical Pediatrics and Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association, the IPA published a position paper highlighting the reasons behind the outbreak and the steps to be taken for curbing it.
According to the paper, there are a total of 175,992 children in the country who have not been vaccinated against polio.
Therefore, the first step should be identification of these kids and they should be administered shots of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
This refers to a series of shots that are designed to provide complete protection against the disease, which can result in death, disability and paralysis.
Since late February, a total of four children in Israel have been diagnosed with polio. The first discovery was in Safed where an 8-year old child had been brought to the hospital because his limbs were paralyzed.
The other three kids diagnosed had had contact with the first one and had tested positive, even though they did not have any symptoms.
Schneider Children’s Medical Center’s day care hospitalization director, Prof. Liat Ashkenazi-Hoffnung, said that the polio strain cVDPV2 was causing the current outbreak.
This strain had not circulated in Israel previously. Ashkenazi-Hoffnung said that this was the same strain that had been found in New York and London and the former also had a clinical case.
She said that populations in Israel interact with populations of these areas and this is how the strain had also traveled to the country.
She also revealed that the spread of the cVDPV2 strain cannot be prevented with the oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is administered in the country.
She added that the only way of protecting children and those they interact with is to administer the IPV vaccine.
Four IPV shots make up the polio vaccination regimen in Israel, which are administered before children are 18 months old and another one is given when the child enrolls in the second grade.
Two oral polio vaccine (OPV) doses are also given to toddlers and babies in the form of drops in the mouth for providing full protection.
It also prevents the virus from entering the sewage system because they do not shed it via stool. In addition, it ensures that young children cannot infect others with the virus.
Polio typically spreads through oral-fecal contamination. Even though it is not that common, the disease can also spread through salvia droplets that are emitted into the air.
Ashkenazi-Hoffnung said that until polio could be eliminated globally, they cannot just stick to IPV because new strains are circulating.
There had been no clinical cases of polio in Israel from 1988 to 2022, but it had emerged last year in March when an unvaccinated girl had been diagnosed in Jerusalem after paralysis.
Last year, a nationwide campaign had been launched for fully vaccinating children from birth to the age of 17 who had not been vaccinated as yet.