Campaign launched to boost polio vaccination rates in strictly Orthodox Stamford Hill

Hackney Council working on plan to spread awareness in the community after deadly virus was detected in sewage in the capital


An child is vaccinated at a Children's Medical Center in Neve Yaakov, Jerusalem, 10 September 2013. Polio virus has been found in Jerusalem’s sewers for the first time since Israel eliminated the disease, the nation’s Heath Ministry announced on Monday. No children are known to have been paralyzed by the disease. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ????? ????? ???? ?????? ????? ?????? ????? ????? ???

A campaign is being launched to boost polio vaccination rates in the strictly Orthodox London neighbourhood of Stamford Hill, after the virus was detected in sewage in the capital.

All children between one and nine in London will be offered a booster jab to prevent the potentially lethal disease spreading in areas with some of the lowest vaccination rates.
Hackney Council says it is currently working on a plan to spread awareness among the strictly Orthodox.

A spokesperson told the JC: “Specific communication material for Charedi communities are in development to ensure that those communities are informed and any specific communication needs are being met.”

NHS London, who are in charge of the vaccine rollout, say they are also developing messaging for the strictly Orthodox community.

A Yiddish-language leaflet has already been released, warning parents that their child may be at risk without the protection of a booster jab.

This follows similar publicity material being developed in Yiddish to encourage the Charedi community to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Similar campaigns were launched in Israel and the US.

Rabbi Herschel Gluck, president of the Stamford Hill Shomrim neighbourhood watch group, said he was working to “encourage and inform” people about polio.

He told the JC: “There are people who are hesitant, there are people who feel uncomfortable. Stamford Hill reflects the general feeling regarding vaccinations in society. It ranges from those who are happy to vaccinate, to those who need encouragement, to those who are sceptical. We have a full range of views in the community.”

While there are those who are fervently opposed to vaccinations, he said, they remain “certainly a minority”.

Rabbi Gluck added: “We understand the seriousness of the situation. It is vital that people are protected against the virus.

“I am old enough to remember people who had polio and it had a terrible effect on their lives. I feel very strongly that it shouldn’t happen again.”

Earlier this year, poliovirus was detected at the Beckton sewage treatment, which serves north London. Further samples taken upstream suggests that transmission has spread beyond a close network of a few individuals.

No cases of polio have yet been reported, however, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed.

The virus, which can cause paralysis and death, spreads through faeces. It was eradicated in Europe in 2003, but a case was diagnosed in Rockland County — the county with the highest Jewish population per capita in America — in July.

The victim, an unvaccinated man in his twenties, is “just the very, very tip of the iceberg”, a senior Centre for Disease Control official told CNN.

Genetic analysis of that case shows that it is linked to poliovirus discovered in London and Jerusalem.

Jane Clegg, Chief Nurse for the NHS in London, said the NHS want to ensure children have “maximum protection” from the virus.

She added: “We are already reaching out to parents and carers of children who aren’t up to date with their routine vaccinations, who can book a catch-up appointment with their GP surgery now and for anyone not sure of their child’s vaccination status, they can check their Red Book.”

Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at the UKHSA, said: “No cases of polio have been reported and for the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low.

“But we know the areas in London where the poliovirus is being transmitted have some of the lowest vaccination rates.

"This is why the virus is spreading in these communities and puts those residents not fully vaccinated at greater risk.”

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