The amount of polio cases in children around the world has drastically reduced after decades of research, and mass vaccination campaigns.
However, there have still been cases of outbreaks in areas of low vaccination. Some cases happened after the weakened virus in the oral polio vaccine, moved around a community and regained the ability to cause disease. No other vaccines made with weakened live viruses have caused outbreaks of disease.
WHO has granted emergency use for a new polio vaccine
To prevent the vaccine-derived polio outbreaks, the World Health Organization has granted emergency use for a new polio vaccine. The oral vaccine got the go-ahead on November 13.
“We are very, very enthusiastically looking forward to using this new vaccine,” says medical epidemiologist Chima Ohuabunwo of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
“Along with continuing the crucial work of improving vaccination coverage in places where it is low, the new vaccine will hopefully … take us to the finishing line of polio eradication.” he added.
The global polio eradication initiative
In 1980, eight years after WHO declared that the world was free of smallpox, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched to tackle polio. The disease was a promising candidate for eradication as an effective, easily administered and cheap vaccine was available, and the poliovirus, which naturally infects only humans, doesn’t hang around in other animals in between outbreaks.
The symptoms of polio manifest as flu-like symptoms in some people, as most people who become infected don’t feel sick.
About one in 200 become paralyzed for life.
Effect of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, in the late 1980s, wild poliovirus paralyzed more than 1,000 children each day.
Since then, thanks to widespread vaccination campaigns, cases have plummeted by more than 99 percent, and two of the three types of wild poliovirus have been eradicated.