TUE, AUG 25 2020-theG&BJournal– Charles Wolf, Sanofi Pasteur Vaccines Head for Africa has described the declaration by the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) certifying the WHO Africa region as free of wild poliovirus, as a watershed for WHO and all partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
ARCC, the body responsible for certifying the eradication of wild poliovirus in the WHO Africa Region (WHO-Afro), has just granted the region ‘wild poliovirus free’ status. This follows after Nigeria, the last wild poliovirus endemic country in the region, recorded no new cases in three years–the requisite period–since it last reported cases of wild poliovirus.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that is transmitted from person to person, mainly through afecal- oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food and multiplies inside the intestines.
One in 200 infections lead to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. Among those paralyzed, 5 to10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Polio mainly affects children under 5years of age.
There is no cure for polio but the disease can be prevented through administration of a simple and effective vaccine, given multiple times. This is why efforts are underway across every country to rapidly boost immunity levels in children and protect them from polio paralysis.
Sanofi Pasteur, the world’s single largest producers of vaccines, is easily known to be associated with WHO Africa Region and the overall global efforts to free the world of polio as well as this major milestone for Nigeria where the firm has been working in collaboration with stakeholders such as the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), WHO, UNICEF and several multi-lateral and non-governmental organizations in the national immunization programmes for children under 5 years of age.
Of the three strains of wild poliovirus (type1, type2 and type3), wild poliovirus type2 was eradicated in 1999 and no case of wild poliovirus type3 has been found since the last reported case in Nigeria in November2012.
In 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched by several stakeholders involved in global public health and led by the World Health Organization. At that time, polio was endemic in 125 countries with more than 350,000 children paralyzed each year. Since then, thanks to the strong collaborations across the GPEI, there has been a 99.9% decrease in paralytic cases.
Sanofi Pasteur says the fight against polio worldwide is not over yet despite this milestone, and says it will remain committed to supporting the GPEI until the disease is eradicated worldwide.
‘’Once polio is eradicated, the world can celebrate the delivery of a major global public good that will benefit all people equally, no matter where they live. By then, no child will ever again suffer the terrible effects of lifelong polio-paralysis.’’