Home International Vaccination scramble begins as wild poliovirus emerges in Malawi

Vaccination scramble begins as wild poliovirus emerges in Malawi

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The disease can cause lifelong paralysis and can be prevented only by immunisation.

Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia will also embark on the third phase of mass vaccination campaigns in the coming weeks. Picture: REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

MOZAMBIQUE has kicked off the third round of vaccination against wild poliovirus type 1 as southern African countries launch a further drive to protect children under 5 and halt the debilitating virus from spreading.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said neighbouring Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia will also embark on the third phase of mass vaccination campaigns in the coming weeks.

The mass vaccination campaigns were launched after an outbreak in Malawi – the country’s first wild poliovirus cases in 30 years.

Mozambique also detected a case in May.

Only two cases of wild poliovirus have been confirmed in this region in 2022.

Around 36 million vaccine doses have been administered by the four African countries in the first two rounds.

The poliovirus is highly infectious and largely affects children younger than 5 years.

The disease can cause lifelong paralysis and can be prevented only by immunisation. Wild poliovirus type 1 is endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Cases detected in the two countries do not alter Africa’s certification as free of wild poliovirus – an achievement declared in 2020 – because the virus strain is not indigenous, said WHO.

Laboratory analysis linked the strains detected in Malawi and Mozambique to a strain circulating in Pakistan’s Sindh province in 2019.

WHO representative in Mozambique, Dr Severin von Xylander, said: “This third round of mass vaccination campaign brings us closer to protecting all children under 5 years of age across Mozambique against poliovirus. WHO and partners are working tirelessly in support of the government to end the threat posed by this debilitating disease.”

The multiple vaccination rounds aim to ensure that every under 5 child is fully vaccinated against poliovirus in the at-risk countries.

“Every effort is being made to vaccinate every eligible child. This is a dangerous disease with no cure, but full vaccination can prevent paralysis,” added WHO Regional Office for Africa, Polio Programme Co-ordinator, Dr Modjirom Ndoutabe.

“We are supporting these five countries to deliver quality and effective vaccination campaigns, which will safeguard children and stamp out the virus.”

Cape Times

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