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Ministry Refutes Polio Vaccine Report
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The polio vaccine used to protect children from the illness is safe and effective the Ministry of Health has said. Their statement follows a newspaper report which suggested the vaccine had damaging side effects.

The report was in serious discord with the facts and misled the public, the ministry's information office said.

The Beijing Times carried a report on Wednesday about a petition signed by more than 20 parents and submitted to the ministry which said their children became unwell after taking the oral polio vaccine (OPV).The report caused public concern about the safety of the medication.

The government initiated the national polio immunization scheme in the 1960s and as a result there's been a continuous fall in the number of cases. A survey conducted by the ministry showed that China has not had any new polio cases since 1994.And in 2000 it was announced that polio had been eradicated in China.

The vaccine played a vital role in this success and it's been estimated that without it more than 1 million children could have been paralyzed by the virus, the ministry said in a statement.

Polio invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis. It can be contracted at any age but mainly affects children under three.

Countries now free of the polio virus should continue to carry out vaccinations to ensure everyone is protected in case of future possible transmission from other countries, the World Health Organization advises.

Globally about 20 countries have had outbreaks of polio in recent years including Nigeria and Indonesia. The illness reappeared when they stopped their vaccination schemes.

The central government would continue to carry out the vaccinations to protect the health of Chinese children, the ministry said.

According to the WHO the OPV is safe, effective and the recommended treatment for the global effort to eradicate polio.

Cases of paralysis after immunization are very rare, the information office said. They added that if abnormal symptoms occurred after the treatment parents should immediately consult the medical department responsible for immunization.

(China Daily July 7, 2006)

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