Image: A child gets a polio vaccination.
Ramon Espinosa  /  AP
A health official gives drops of oral polio vaccination to a child at the Mission of Mercy school in the Cite Soleil slum, in Port-au-Prince.
updated 3/27/2009 6:19:23 PM ET 2009-03-27T22:19:23

Public health workers plan to vaccinate some 1 million women and children this week around Haiti's impoverished capital after delays exacerbated by food riots and hurricanes, officials said Friday.

The effort marks the second phase of an international goal to immunize 5.6 million Haitian children — more than half the country's population — against diseases like polio, measles and rubella.

Children in neatly pressed uniforms lined up at schools and marketplaces in the Cite Soleil slum to receive injections, drops and tablets.

"This will help the children who can't afford medicine. When they grow up, they won't be frail," said Justin Jean-Erick, a health worker with Medecins du Monde.

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When the program began in 2007, more than two-thirds of Haitian infants between 12 and 23 months had not been completely vaccinated, and 11 percent of children had received no immunizations, according to UNICEF.

The campaign was supposed to have ended more than a year ago. But the first round of vaccinations were completed in November because of delays exacerbated by riots over food prices and a string of tropical storm and hurricanes that devastated the island, UNICEF spokeswoman Elisabeth Augustin said.

Children under 5 years of age are being immunized against diphtheria, pertussis and polio. Kids between 1 and 19 years old receive rubella and measles vaccines. Workers also are distributing vitamin A tablets to fight malnutrition in children under 4.

Women between 15 and 49 years of age are being immunized against diphtheria and tetanus.

The distributions in Port-au-Prince and nearby Croix-des-Bouquets are expected to continue through Sunday.

The joint effort by Haitian health authorities, the United Nations Children's Fund, the Pan-American Health Organization and others is aimed at eliminating deadly diseases.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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