Indonesia kicked off its third nationwide polio immunization campaign Wednesday, hoping to stamp out the virus since it re-emerged in the country in March after a 10-year break. Polio has sickened 291 children in Indonesia since March, according to WHO statistics.
Health workers hope that around 24 million children will receive the vaccine Wednesday, said Thomas Moran from the World Health Organization. Around the same number were vaccinated in the earlier two rounds. Moran said the WHO was "confident" that the disease could eventually be beaten in Indonesia.
The campaign appeared to get off to a slow start in Jakarta, where nurses in health centers and government buildings were waiting to administer the vaccine, which comes in the form a droplet squeezed into children's mouth. Moran, who was in the eastern province of Papua which is in an early time zone, said "things were well underway" there.
Health experts say Indonesia's outbreak is genetically linked to the virus circulating in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen and was likely brought to Indonesia by a migrant worker, a religious pilgrim or a traveler. Polio spreads through sewage-contaminated water and usually infects young children, attacking the nervous system and causing paralysis, muscular atrophy, deformation and sometimes death, AP reports.