Polio Eradication Within Reach in the Eastern Mediterranean

nOPV2 polio vaccine used by various countries
Polio eradication
Afghanistan (Vax Before Travel)

The World Health Organization (WHO in the Eastern Mediterranean representative Dr. Hamid Jafari, Director of the Polio Eradication Programme, delivered an update to the Member States on October 10, 2022, regarding efforts to halt transmission of both wild and variant polioviruses.

While noting that 20 of the Region's 22 countries have achieved the standards for polio eradication certification, he urged the Member States to continue to intensify surveillance due to an increased risk of poliovirus spreading.

Since the 68th session of the Regional Committee, nationwide vaccination campaigns have resumed in Afghanistan, the Region has implemented outbreak response campaigns using the novel Oral Polio Vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), and concerted and sustained efforts have led to the closure of a poliovirus outbreak in Sudan and a high-risk event in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Dr. Jafari's briefing focused on the epidemiological situation in the last two countries in the Region with wild poliovirus transmission; Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Despite increased cases in 2022, Pakistan's concerted efforts have led to just one virus lineage surviving in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan's top priorities are to stop the circulation of endemic polio in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, roll out intense vaccination campaigns in any district that detects wild poliovirus type 1, and prevent transmission in high-risk districts.

In Afghanistan, increased access to children has been a game-changer.

While the immunization campaign could not be conducted in some areas, the effort reached nearly 32 million children in the country, with health workers wading through deep water to reach children with the life-saving vaccine.

Dr. Chris Elias, Chair of the Polio Oversight Board and President of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, underscored that one of the common threads to ongoing poliovirus outbreaks in the Region is limited access to all children.

He emphasized that the national polio program could not reach all children with oral polio vaccine due to "a tragic combination of insecurity, violence, lack of political will and community rejections."

He reiterated the polio program is not facing a technical challenge, as polio vaccines do work, but that it urgently requires the ability to deliver vaccines to all children.

Given the increasing movement of populations, and polioviruses, across borders, all partners reiterated their commitment to stepping up efforts to end polio in the Region.

To alert international travelers, the U.S. CDC's Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions travel advisory issued on September 26, 2022, stated that anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series before any international travel.

Since 2000, an inactivated polio vaccine has been administered in the U.S. It produces antibodies to all three poliovirus types.

Other polio vaccination news is posted at Vax-Before-Travel.com/Polio.

Vax-Before-Travel publishes fact-checked, research-based travel vaccine news manually translated and curated for mobile readers.

Article by
Donald Hackett