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Wild Poliovirus Reaches More African Countries In 2009, WHO Official Says

Cases of polio have been reported in some African countries that have eradicated the disease, Luis Gomes Sambo, the WHO’s Africa regional director, said Monday at the opening of a child immunisation conference in Zimbabwe, Agence France-Presse reports (12/14). It is the WHO’s first annual regional conference on immunization, according to VOA News. Sambo said the conference will review the status of immunization in the 46-country sub-Saharan region (Mafundikwa, 12/14).

“Several polio-free countries have suffered setback in polio eradication,” Sambo told the 150 delegates. “The number of countries with polio outbreaks following wild poliovirus importations has increased from 13 to 19 in 2009,” he said, AFP reports. According to the WHO, Angola, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria are some of the countries that have seen more polio cases, mainly because of a lack of immunisations (12/14).

VOA News reports that immunization levels in Africa stand at 74 percent and the target is 85 percent. “We need better management of the available resources for immunization, human resources, technologies and we need increased funding to improve the capacity of governments to purchase vaccines and we need also greater mobilization of people,” Dr. Sambo said. “We need to inform people … to bring their people to vaccination campaigns” (12/14).

In related news, the pharmaceutical company Crucell “will likely look to add a sixth antigen” to its Quinvaxem vaccine, a mix of vaccines against five childhood diseases” in an effort to maintain the company’s market position, which is coming under pressure,” Reuters reports. “‘We are working on an hexavalent vaccine but for competitive reasons we are not mentioning what the sixth antigen will be,’ Crucell spokeswoman Oya Yavuz said in a recent e-mail interview. Despite Crucell’s reluctance to reveal what antigen it will acquire, the World Health Organisation said polio is likely to be added in future to the pentavalent paediatric vaccines bought by UNICEF, forming an hexavalent vaccine” (Gray-Block, 12/15).