MAF’s Jean Felix Razandimy (L) & Solofo Rakotoandrianarivonjy (R) load up the lifesaving polio vaccine (Irina Randriamandrato)

MAF delivers polio vaccine all over Madagascar

14th October 2023

MAF’s Jean Felix Razandimy (L) & Solofo Rakotoandrianarivonjy (R) load up the lifesaving polio vaccine(Irina Randriamandrato)

MAF’s Jean Felix (L) & Solofo (R) load up vaccine (credit: I. Randriamandrato)

This autumn, MAF delivered 7,570kg of the polio vaccine and information packs on 10 flights to 23 remote locations across Madagascar as part of a UNICEF backed vaccination drive to eradicate the disease. MAF’s Irina Randriamandrato speaks to the people behind the campaign

September saw more than 18,500,000 adults and children get vaccinated against polio (over half the population) as part of Madagascar’s drive to eradicate the disease (source: UNICEF).

Polio is caused by poor hygiene, contact with infected faeces or by ingesting contaminated food and water. In severe cases, polio can cause paralysis and death in a matter of days.

Thanks to extensive global vaccination programmes, polio has been eradicated in most of the world. Madagascar, however, is one of the few countries which still needs to tackle under-immunised children and adults, particularly in the rural areas.

Information packs are key to getting the message across about the polio vaccine (Irina Randriamandrato)

Info packs get the message across about the polio vaccine (credit: I. Randriamandrato)

Adults, as well as children, must be vaccinated

Madagascar’s polio outbreak began in September 2023, which – according to the WHO – has seen 49 people paralysed and 226 people test positive for the disease.

Due to the increase of cases, Madagascar’s Ministry of Health and UNICEF are taking action in a bid to to stop the disease from spreading further.

Worryingly, the perception that only children can be affected by polio, still persists in Madagascar says Jaona*, who got vaccinated against polio for the first time:

‘I didn’t know that adults also had to get vaccinated, I thought it was only children! It’s clear that not everyone in Madagascar is aware of the effects of the disease because access to basic healthcare is difficult, especially outside of the capital, Antananarivo. It’s very important to share this information and the vaccine with everyone.’

Jaona* – a man who benefited from MAF’s delivery of the polio vaccine

Wouter Nagel is one of the pilots who has been distributing the vaccine (Irina Randriamandrato)

MAF pilot Wouter Nagel distributes the vaccine (credit: I. Randriamandrato)

MAF – the most effective way to transport vaccines to the isolated

The campaign – which began in May and continued in July through till October – is being led by the Municipality of Antananarivo (CUA) in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and other partners from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The campaign not only bridges vaccination gaps that have emerged, but also improves the overall health and well-being of the Malagasy public.

MAF was contracted by UNICEF to distribute the vaccine to 23 isolated areas throughout the island nation, including Maroantsetra in the northeast; Tsihombe, Beloha and Vohimarina in the south; Besalampy and Morafenobe in the west; and Marolambo in the east.

MAF’s latest delivery was to Sainte-Marie Island off Madagascar’s east coast on 10 October.

Each polio vaccination per person comprises of two liquid doses to be taken orally. For full efficacy, every dose is carefully chilled at the right temperature, so that they do not spoil before they are administered.

MAF’s Remi Razakaharisoa drives boxes of the vaccine to meet the plane (Irina Randriamandrato)

MAF’s Remi drives boxes of the vaccine to meet the plane (credit: I. Randriamandrato)

As part of MAF’s service – from loading and take-off through to landing and unloading – the vaccine is kept in special containers to maintain the right temperature at all times in order to meet ‘cold chain’ regulations.

MAF delivers lifesaving vaccines smoothly, swiftly and effectively, saving hours of time, reducing the risk of breakage caused by bumpy, pot-hole ridden roads.

Working flat out to bring about real change

The team are working flat out to transport the vaccine to 23 destinations, says MAF Madagascar’s Flight Operations Officer Fanamperana Andriamalala:

‘Our caravan is flying all over Madagascar. We’re even flying on Saturdays and Sundays. Our ground ops team are loading the aircraft late into the evening, so that the aircraft can depart as early as possible the next day.

‘It’s great that MAF is transporting vaccines all around the island and helping to raise awareness about polio. I’m very grateful to be part of a team who brings help, hope, and healing to isolated communities!’

Fanamperana Andriamalala – MAF Madagascar’s Flight Operations Officer

Fanamperana loves being part of the team who brings help, hope and healing (Irina Randriamandrato)

Fanamperana loves to bring help, hope and healing (credit: I. Randriamandrato)

Thanks to partnership and teamwork, MAF can help protect the health of Madagascar’s remotest communities and bring about real change.

*Not his real name.

Read about MAF’s response to the polio outbreak in Tanzania

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