T. Jacob John, a former professor of clinical virology an the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, who has served on several Global and National Committees on Immunization and Polio Eradication, writes in this opinion piece in India’s Hindu, “While one year has passed without polio caused by natural poliovirus, we can claim complete eradication only after we ensure the absence of wild and vaccine polioviruses in the population.” He provides a brief history of polio eradication efforts, globally and in India, and continues, “For certification of eradication, two more years should pass without any case of wild virus polio. … We must continue working as if we still have poliovirus lurking somewhere, only to show up when least expected” (1/8).
“Mobile health teams in Bangladesh are conducting ‘child-to-child’ searches to reach the remaining half million children not vaccinated during a nationwide polio immunization campaign launched on 7 January,” IRIN reports. With a goal of vaccinating 22 million children, health workers are heading into hard-to-reach and high-risk areas to vaccinate the remaining 560,791 children, the news service writes. “Since a polio outbreak in 2006 of an imported viral strain, the government has not reported any infections, pledging annual polio vaccinations until [neighboring] India is declared polio-free,” IRIN notes, adding the next round of polio vaccinations in Bangladesh is scheduled for February 11 (1/11).
India Marking Health Achievement In Polio-Free Year But Cautious Optimism Remains Among Some Experts
“On Friday, India marks a huge public health milestone — a year since a case of polio was found in the country — a critical step in being declared polio-free and an achievement that many experts long argued was impossible,” the Globe and Mail reports (Nolen, 1/11). “The achievement gives a major morale boost to health advocates and donors who had begun to lose hope of ever defeating the stubborn disease that the world had promised to eradicate by 2000,” the Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes (Nessman, 1/12).
If India does not record a new polio case through January 13, “produc[ing] 12 straight months of polio-free surveillance data, it will be removed from the list of countries where polio is considered endemic, leaving only the other three,” Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, Scientific American reports (Branswell, 1/9). “Asking other countries to draw inspiration from India in their polio eradication drive, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said the country not reporting a single polio case over the last year is a major milestone in the global health sector,” the Economic Times writes (1/10).
“Nigeria’s 36 Executive Governors and the Federal Capital Territory have signed up to the Nigeria Immunization Challenge launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year,” a Gates Foundation press release states. “The Nigeria Immunization Challenge sets specific objectives that need to be met during each quarter of 2012. If met, Nigeria will significantly improve its chances of stopping polio and protecting more children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough,” the release adds, noting, “As of December 30, 2011, 51 cases of wild poliovirus had been reported in eight Nigerian states” (1/5).
“In India, a mass vaccination campaign involving more than a million volunteers reduced cases nationally by 94 percent between 2009 and 2010, from 741 to 42, and down to the single case last year,” the Guardian reports, adding, “If in India as a whole there are no more confirmed cases before 13 January, the country will have completed its first year without a new victim. And if polio is gone from India, the only countries where the disease is still endemic would be Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Wall Street Journal Examines Potential Implications Of Allegedly Fake U.S. Vaccination Campaign In Pakistan
The Wall Street Journal reports on how “a reportedly fake vaccination campaign conducted [by the U.S.] to help hunt down Osama bin Laden has caused a backlash against international health workers in some parts of Pakistan and has impeded efforts to wipe out polio in the country,” one of only four worldwide where polio remains endemic. The article quotes a UNICEF country representative, a U.S. Embassy official, a Muslim cleric, a non-governmental organization representative, a local health care worker, and an official with a provincial health department (Tohid, 12/3).
Number Of Annual Polio Cases In Nigeria Quadruples; WHO, Government Working To Vaccinate Millions Of Children
Nigeria has reported 43 cases of polio so far this year, up from 11 cases in 2010, and the disease has spread to Niger, Mali, and Cote d’Ivoire, according to a WHO official, BBC News reports. “Polio was affecting eight northern Nigerian states — two more than a few months ago, the head of Nigeria’s National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA), Dr. Ado Muhammad, told the BBC.”
“Up to 3.2 million South Sudanese children have received vaccinations against polio in a United Nations-backed campaign to ensure the new country remains free of the deadly disease, more than two years after the last case was reported,” the U.N. News Centre reports. The three-phase campaign, which is being coordinated by South Sudan’s health ministry and backed by UNICEF and the WHO, will continue with additional immunizations next month, according to the news service. “Polio … re-emerged in South Sudan in April 2008, but after an intensive vaccination campaign, no new cases have been reported since June 2009,” the U.N. News Centre writes (11/14).
In this Huffington Post opinion piece, Sania Nishtar, founder of Heartfile and the recently launched Sania Nishtar Health Fund, writes that “[a]fter 23 years of commencing the World Health Organisation-led Global Polio Eradication initiative, billions of dollars in investment, mobilization of 20 million health workers and a population wide intervention in 125 countries, vaccinating more than two billion children, there are only four countries in the world which continue to harbor the disease,” and Pakistan is “a living threat to the global goal of eradicating a disease for the second time from the face of this planet.”