“Commonwealth government leaders meeting in Australia agreed Saturday to step up efforts to eradicate polio worldwide, despite the Afghanistan war setting back vaccination efforts there and in neighboring Pakistan,” the Associated Press reports (10/29). “Leaders from Britain, Canada, Australia and Nigeria, and” representatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “on Saturday pledged tens of millions of dollars in extra funding to wipe out the disease” in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria — the four countries where polio remains endemic, Reuters states (10/29).
In this Huffington Post opinion piece, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University, notes some of the parallels between the development of RTS,S, the experimental malaria vaccine currently being tested in Africa, and the polio vaccine, but he says “there are also some particularly disappointing ways in which the polio and malaria efforts could differ.”
Number Of Polio Cases In Pakistan Exceeds Total Number Reported In Three Other Endemic Countries, Report Says
According to a report published earlier this month in Virology Journal by a team at the bioinformatics laboratory of the Centre for Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) in Lahore, Pakistan, that country is reporting more polio cases than Nigeria, India and Afghanistan — the three other countries where the disease is endemic — combined, SciDev.Net reports. Natural disasters, such as flooding, armed conflict, and poor-quality immunization campaigns have contributed to an increase in cases, according to the report. Elias Durry, senior coordinator for the WHO’s polio eradication effort in Pakistan, said, “WHO is currently monitoring the whole [immunization campaign] and fully supporting Pakistan government as a partner along with organizations like UNICEF,” according to SciDev.Net (Ahmed, 10/28).
“Thousands of vaccination teams have traversed the vast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on foot, by motorbike, boat and car, in a campaign to immunize at least 14 million children against polio, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said,” IRIN reports. The campaign, which was run over three days beginning October 20 by the government with support from UNICEF, also provided vitamin A supplements and deworming, IRIN notes.
UNICEF released a statement on Tuesday correcting an October 21 report by its office in Madagascar “expressing concern over a resurgence of polio in Madagascar after a routine health survey identified vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) in several healthy children.” According to the statement, “there was no re-emergence of polio in Madagascar,” and “[t]he last wild poliovirus case in Madagascar was detected in 1997.”
A new report from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) “has concluded that the major obstacle to eradication is not political or scientific or monetary, but something seemingly mundane — bad management,” health reporter Andre Picard writes in his Globe and Mail column, adding that “the panel offers concrete proposals for what needs to be done to close the deal.” He continues, “The fundamental problem though, according to the expert panel, is that the global eradication effort is overeager to celebrate the successes (like India) and ignore the failures (like Pakistan).”
Though the number of new polio cases has dropped by 99 percent over the past 20 years, World Polio Day is recognized “because we havenâ€™t done enough yet,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in his blog, “The Gates Notes.” He continues, “The last one percent is the hardest percent, and we have to do even more than weâ€™ve already done if we hope to finish the job on polio. The day the world is declared polio free is the day we can really begin celebrating” (10/21).
“India has not had a case of polio in nine months, raising hopes the country is on the verge of defeating the disease, health officials said Monday,” the Associated Press reports. “India remains one of only four countries in the world where polio is still endemic, and the nine months that it has been without a case is the longest since eradication efforts were launched nearly two decades ago,” the AP writes, adding, “A country is declared polio free when no cases of the disease are reported for three years, according to the World Health Organization.”
“An outbreak of polio in three children from the south of Madagascar has raised concerns over a possible resurgence of this crippling disease,” BBC News reports, adding, “UNICEF spokesman Daniel Timme says three cases of polio without symptoms have been identified … during UNICEF’s Mother and Child Health week following tests and urine samples” (Healy, 10/22). “Although the children are currently not showing symptoms of polio, [Timme] said symptoms of the disease could make itself known at any time” Examiner.com writes (Herriman, 10/22).
The latest quarterly report (.pdf) by an independent board that monitors the progress of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), released in mid-October, warned that “unless the program addresses ‘fundamental problems,’ there is a ‘substantial risk’ that stopping polio transmission will not be achieved by end-2012,” AlertNet reports. “‘Important changes in style, commitment and accountability are essential,’ the panel of international health experts said,” according to AlertNet, which adds, “Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan are still classified as ‘polio-endemic,’” and “in Angola, Chad and Democratic Republic of Congo, transmission has become re-established for 12 months or more.”