BEIRUT: The Health Ministry will soon launch a nationwide campaign to vaccinate children against polio in a bid to prevent the possible transfer of the disease from Syria, ministry sources told The Daily Star Tuesday.
“Polio hasn’t been present in Lebanon for 16 years. But we are afraid that Syrian refugees will bring it again to the country,” one source said, requesting to remain anonymous.
“There is a huge workshop taking place right now so that the campaign will be comprehensive,” the source said, adding that caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil held two meetings Monday in preparation for the campaign.
The Health Ministry will provide 1.5 million vaccines to children living in Lebanon, regardless of nationality, the source said.
The vaccines will be provided in cooperation with UNICEF. The campaign will target children aged up to 5 years old, and will provide vaccinations for free. The source said getting the vaccine would be “nearly obligatory.”
The campaign will work with civil society groups and any institutions that reach children and would be accompanied by an awareness message to parents, the source added.
“We sent letters to relevant ministries requesting cooperation. Some of these are the ministries of Education, Telecommunications, Sports and Youth, the Interior and Defense,” the source said.
Waves of Syrian refugees began to cross the border into Lebanon shortly after the outbreak of unrest in Lebanon’s neighbor in March 2011.
There are around 800,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon according to U.N. figures, but Lebanese officials put the number closer to 1.3 million. Many Syrian refugees in Lebanon have yet to register with the U.N.
The Health Ministry will give details on the campaign in a news conference to be held shortly before vaccination rounds start.