By Alex Traiman/JNS.org
Click photo to download. Caption: Israeli President Shimon Peres (right), whose son has contracted and overcome Polio, watches as a medical worker administers a dose of a Polio immunization to a young boy at a clinic in Jerusalem on Aug. 21, 2013. Israel’s Health Ministry initiated a mass vaccination program for more than 1 million children in Israel following the recent discovery of the Polio virus in sewer systems. Credit: Flash 90.
As Israeli children begin
their school year this week, one particular requirement for students is taking
on a somewhat sudden and newfound sense of urgency–inoculation against the
The disease, which many in
Israel had believed to be completely eradicated for more two decades, has
recently been identified in sewage systems–first in the south and then in the
north of the country–during routine testing.
Many across Israel are
invoking thoughts of a biblical-style plague outbreak, even though no formal
cases of the disease have been reported.
“There has not been an
outbreak of Polio since a few cases were reported in Israel in 1988,” Dr. Mati
Ehrlichman, director of the Glaubach Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine
at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, told JNS.org.
Yet suddenly, as a result of
the sewer system findings and the potential for immune-deficient children to
contract the disease, Israel’s Health Ministry has launched a rapid campaign to
immediately inoculate children using an oral form of polio vaccination (OPV),
which the Health Ministry has not offered children for nearly 10 years.
Like many sudden Israeli
initiatives, the decision to vaccinate has been met with some opposition and
controversy, by a group that believes that spreading the vaccination may be
more dangerous than the disease itself.
A petition was recently
taken to Israel’s Supreme Court to halt the issue of the vaccine. The petition was quickly heard and rejected. The
controversy surrounds the ability of the oral vaccination to spread to those
who have not received it.
“There are two kinds of
vaccination against polio,” said Dr. Ehrlichman. “One is called IPV
(Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine) and it is not given orally. Jonas Salk, who
was Jewish, invented it in the ’50s. The OPV (Oral Polio Vaccination) was invented
years later by Albert Sabin.”
“The only difference between
the two is that the IPV is not a live vaccine. The OPV is live vaccine. The IPV,
the non-live vaccine is a little better because there is no chance of
developing wild Polio virus. But it only vaccinates the one who is getting the
vaccine, not the others who are not getting the vaccine. With OPV, even those
who are not receiving the vaccine can get vaccinated, because the vaccine can
be passed from one to …read more