Malaysia to Work With UNICEF on Polio Vaccination in Sabah State

By Reuters Staff

December 17, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's health authorities on Sunday said they are working with UNICEF to bring polio vaccines to the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, where the country's first polio case in nearly three decades was detected last week.

A three-month-old infant was diagnosed with polio on Dec. 6 after being admitted to hospital with a fever and muscle weakness, the first such case since 1992.

It comes after the Philippines, north of Borneo, reported its first cases of polio since 1993 in September.

Malaysia's health ministry had said the child was infected with a polio strain that shared genetic links with the virus detected in the Philippines.

"We are planning to work with the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, to get vaccine supply at a low cost for an immunisation programme for non-citizen children in Sabah," Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.

Noor Hisham said the plan is to have UNICEF subsidise the cost of the vaccines, and to administer the vaccinations with the help of selected non-governmental organisations and the Philippines government.

No new cases have been detected so far, though authorities are still waiting for the results of stool samples taken from people who had close contact with the infant and the surrounding area where the child lived, Noor Hisham said.

"The health ministry would like to stress that the best way to eradicate polio is through immunisation. Contagious diseases such as polio know no boundaries," Noor Hisham said.

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