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Africa vows to banish all forms of polio

Nearly 100 million African children have been vaccinated against polio since July 2020.Africa was certified free of wild poliovirus a…

Nearly 100 million African children have been vaccinated against polio since July 2020.Africa was certified free of wild poliovirus a year ago, after four consecutive years without a new case. 

But outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) continue to spread, particularly in communities where few children have been vaccinated against the virus.

 The number of cases increased last year, partly due to disruptions in polio vaccination campaigns caused by Covid-19. 

Since 2018, 23 African countries have been affected by outbreaks and more than half of the 1071 cVDPV cases worldwide have been in Africa.

 As a result, governments in the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa Region have committed to eliminating all remaining forms of polio. 

To this end, they have introduced a scorecard designed to monitor progress towards eradication. 

The commitments were made at a meeting on polio control held during the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa, held virtually from 24 to 26 August.

 “As Chairperson of the African Union, I am committed to working with other countries to preserve the gains we have made through our multiple efforts in the fight against polio and to eradicate all other forms of the disease in Africa. Once this ambition is achieved, we will be able to say that we have kept our promise,” said Félix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 At the Regional Committee, countries discussed how to begin implementing the new Polio Eradication Strategy 2022-2026, launched in June to urgently stop the spread of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses. 

The strategy outlines various tools and tactics to contain outbreaks.

 These include accelerating and improving the quality of the outbreak response; further integrating polio campaigns with essential health service delivery and routine immunization; and accelerating the roll-out of the new oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2).

“Polio ignores and disregards borders. Its presence in any corner of our region is a threat to all countries. Togo is committed to working with our regional partners and acting urgently to implement better polio campaigns and protect children across Africa. With collective action, we will defeat all forms of polio,” Togo’s Health Minister, Moustafa Mijiyawa said.

 The dashboard launched by the Regional Committee will track indicators on the implementation of a rapid and quality response to polio outbreaks, preparation for the introduction of nOPV2 when the new vaccine can be scaled up, strengthening routine immunization to close immunization gaps, and transitioning polio assets to national health systems in a strategic and phased approach.

Ministers committed to regularly reviewing progress on each of these indicators to ensure collective success in urgently closing the polio eradication gap and ensuring a polio-free future for every child in the Region.

“Our success in eradicating wild poliovirus in the Region is a testament to what we can achieve when we work together with a full sense of urgency. Covid-19 threatened this victory, as governments worked hard to limit the spread of the pandemic by suspending some vaccination campaigns,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

She added: “Nevertheless, we cannot waver, and with renewed determination we can overcome the remaining obstacles to our chances of success. We have the know-how, but it must be backed by dedicated human resources to reach all under-immunized communities and ensure that all children thrive in a polio-free world. Together, we can help the world end polio.”

 

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