Africa declared free of wild polio

pharmafile | August 26, 2020 | News story | Research and Development polio, vaccines 

The Africa Regional Certification Commission has declared Africa to be free from wild polio.

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan were the only remaining countries with the disease, but thanks to large-scale vaccination campaigns in Nigeria, the continent is now free of polio.

This is a drastic change from a quarter of a century ago. In 1996, the disease affected every country in Africa and paralysed more than 75,000 children across the continent. Nelson Mandela launched the ‘Kick Polio Out of Africa’ programme, which mobilised millions of health workers to carry out vaccination campaigns, even in more remote villages. Since this began, billions of polio vaccines have been provided, which has stopped an estimated 1.8 million cases of the disease.

Nigeria eliminating polio was hindered by the emergence of Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group, in the north-east of the country, which was coincidentally one of the last major holdout regions for wild polio. The conflict with the militants generally made it harder to carry out vaccination campaigns, either from regions being under its control or from the fighting displacing millions of people.

This region has also seen some conspiracy theories hamper vaccination campaigns, as Muslim religious leaders believed that the polio vaccine was a plot by America to make local women infertile. This shares some similarities with conspiracy theories in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which believe vaccination teams are used by Western countries to spy on locals, particularly in Taliban-controlled regions. In all three countries, vaccination teams have been killed by militants.

The WHO have said that it is important countries still remain vigilant against polio as it can easily be imported to a country. This happened in Angola, which defeated the disease in 2001 only for it to return in 2005. For all types of the disease to be eliminated, vaccination efforts need to be coordinated with surveillance to stop children from being paralysed from the disease. 

Related Content

CureVac and GSK begin phase 1 trial for mRNA flu vaccine candidates

CureVac and GSK have announced that the first patient in the phase 1 section of …

Sanofi complete acquisition of mRNA company Translate Bio

French pharma giants Sanofi continues its run of acquisitions in 2021 by completing the deal …

UK COVID vaccine update

Care home staff vaccinations to be compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations among care home staff are to …

Latest content