Polio vaccine checks key to eradication effort

Child receiving polio vaccine Vaccination is key to controlling the disease

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People from Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan should not be allowed to leave their country unless they can show they have been vaccinated against polio, according to the body which monitors attempts to eradicate the disease.

A report from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative says every time a child or adult from these three countries travels abroad, they risk carrying the polio virus with them.

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries where polio remains endemic, which means transmission of the virus has never been stopped.

There has also been a handful of polio cases in Chad this year.

Polio's last stand? 2012 cases

  • Nigeria - 97
  • Pakistan - 47
  • Afghanistan - 26
  • Chad - 5

source: IMB

The report says all but 0.1% of polio has been eradicated globally: there have been 175 cases so far in 2012 compared to 350,000 in 1988.

The IMB says its target of stopping global polio transmission by the end of the year will clearly not be achieved.

And its report says there is a 'significant risk' of having more polio cases in 2013 than in 2012.

But the Board, which is chaired by Sir Liam Donaldson the former Chief Medical Officer for England, says there are reasons to be optimistic.

It cites India's achievement in January 2012 of being free of polio for a year as a major landmark, which meant it was removed from the list of endemic countries.

Nigeria is the only country which has seen an increase in the number of cases this year.

Magic formula

The report concludes there is a 'magic formula' that is still missing in the affected countries, which it calls 'absolute ownership': this means parents demanding the vaccine for their children and local leaders grasping the challenge of wiping polio from their area.

Polio facts

  • Polio is a highly infectious viral disease
  • It is transmitted via contaminated faeces
  • It can caused irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs
  • A minority of cases are fatal

It says: "Most of all ownership is about national pride: a country determined to be a vibrant 21st century nation, not one that is looked down on because it remains tainted by a disease that almost everywhere else in the world survives only in the memory of grandparents."

Vaccine-derived polio virus

The live oral polio vaccine can, in extremely rare cases, cause the paralysing disease it is seeking to prevent and allow the virus to spread in the community.

The IMB says there have been 34 cases of circulating vaccine-derived polio virus this year in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia and Pakistan.

The injectable vaccine used in Britain and other developed countries contains an inactivated, or killed poliovirus.

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Polio's nasty enough if you get it, survive it and you get horrid complications years later. I've known two people with post-polio syndrome, which leads to permanent muscle weakness, numbness, pain and tingling. We need very much to get rid of this disease, whatever it takes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    What about people traveling there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    #3 TB is endemic in this country! Unfortunately vaccines against bacteria are generally less effective than vaccines against viruses. The old TB vaccine I got as a teenager (now no longer given to all kids) was generally considered about 50% effective. Good enough to reduce the incidence of TB to a low level but nowhere near good enough to eradicate it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    1.BluesBerry :
    all 50 states also allow vaccination exemptions for medical reasons; 48 states allow exemptions for religious reasons; & 19 states allow exemptions for philosophical reasons.
    Are these Americans not allowed to leave the country?"
    I was wondering about that, too.Difference might be that there's no active polio in the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    If the countries with Polio had a vaccination drive the disease might be wiped out. WHO have been working on world wide vaccination so one might hope this is on the cards for the remaining countries with polio. If smallpox can be wiped out so should polio and eventually TB which is still endemic in some countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    There should be NO exemptions on this. Everyone should be immunised against polio and parents should be demanding it. Some will shout thats it's against some kind of right or other. . . .. .but only until it hits close to home

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    And they are not alone! National Network for Immunization Information (www.immunizationinfo.org) - all 50 states have school immunization laws but all 50 states also allow vaccination exemptions for medical reasons; 48 states allow exemptions for religious reasons; & 19 states allow exemptions for philosophical reasons.
    Are these Americans not allowed to leave the country?



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