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Polio-Free Eastern Mediterranean is Achievable

February 12, 2022 • 10:13 am CST
(Vax Before Travel)

The Regional Subcommittee on Polio Eradication and Outbreaks issued two statements on February 11, 2022, on the importance of achieving and sustaining a polio-free Eastern Mediterranean, specifically on stopping wild poliovirus transmission in Afghanistan-Pakistan and on preventing cVDPVs in Yemen.

These statements note that the detection of wild poliovirus cases is at the lowest levels in history, with five cases reported in Afghanistan and one in Pakistan since January 2021, which presents a unique epidemiological window of opportunity to eradicate wild poliovirus once and for all.

And they recognize the high risk of persistence and expansion of the two polio outbreaks in Yemen in the setting of low levels of immunity to polio due to disruption in childhood immunization and evidence of international spread of the outbreak.

"I hope one day I can tell my son the story of how polio was eradicated and how no child will ever be paralyzed by this virus again, commented Dr. Nida Ali, a former polio worker in Pakistan, sharing her experience contributing to the program on February 8, 2022.

"Women comprise around 40% of the polio program but mainly as frontline workers who go from house to house to vaccinate millions of children."

"There aren't many women at higher levels, often because women don't apply for these positions, which is a shame."

"On many occasions, I found myself the only woman in a large meeting room, particularly the meetings where policies and protocols are discussed."

"I think the presence of more women in leadership roles will bring an interesting perspective to the program, particularly given our roles as mothers and caregivers."

According to the WHO, oral polio vaccines are offered in many countries.

There are different types of oral poliovirus vaccine, which may contain one, a combination of two, or all three different serotypes of an attenuated vaccine. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

And Eupolio was the first Sabin-IPV to obtain WHO prequalification.

The main advantage of using attenuated Sabin poliovirus strains in IPV production is a lower biosafety risk than wild-type polioviruses used to manufacture conventional IPVs to pose a biosafety hazard case they escape from the manufacturing facility.

The U.S. CDC recently re-issued a Level 2 Travel Advisories that say 'before any international travel, anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series.'