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Over 80 million people affected as Africa launches new polio vaccine

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Over 80 million people affected as Africa launches new polio vaccine

Pioneering deployment in Africa of new polio vaccine shows genuine determination to end polio for good

BRAZZAVILLE, Congo (Republic of), October 22, 2021 / APO Group / –

More than 80 million children have been vaccinated with the new oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2) in six African countries, the first region in the world to deploy the vaccine just months after the World Health Organization (WHO) granted it emergency use status. in November 2020.

Nigeria became the first country in the world to use nVPO2 to fight an epidemic in March 2021, immunizing 7 million children in six states. By September, Benin, Congo, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone had also deployed the vaccine. Africa was certified wild polio-free in August 2020, but outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio type 2 are still reported.

“NOPV2 brings significant benefits in the fight against polio epidemics and Nigeria has worked closely with global polio partners to deploy the vaccine. With a rapid response to the epidemic and effective tools and measures, our path to ending all forms of polio once and for all is clearer, ”said Dr Tunji Funsho, president of the Rotary National PolioPlus Committee, Nigeria.

NOPV2 is a modified form of the monovalent oral polio vaccine designed to be more genetically stable and less likely in underimmunized populations to revert to a form that can cause permanent paralysis in children from the vaccine-derived poliovirus. Given the urgent public health need to address vaccine-derived polio globally, nOPV2 became the first vaccine to receive authorization for use under the Emergency Use List (EUL ). WHO has urged countries to quickly implement the national approval process for importing and deploying the vaccine once it has been approved for use.

“The pioneering deployment in Africa of the new polio vaccine shows genuine determination to end polio for good. The progress made by the six countries and the upcoming deployment to five more countries targeting 30 million children by the end of 2021 promises effective and lasting protection against the threat of permanent paralysis, ”said Dr Pascal Mkanda, polio eradication program coordinator in the WHO regional office. for Africa.

Meet pre-deployment requirements

Over the past three years, the African region has seen an increasing number of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 outbreaks, from the first three countries (Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya) in 2019 to more than 20 in 2021. has seen steady progress towards eradicating all forms of polio in the region, the growing number of outbreaks is worrying and requires a rapid and robust vaccine response. NOPV2 plays an effective role in stopping these epidemics.

To deploy nOPV2 under EUL, countries must meet a set of strict requirements. The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts recommended that the vaccine be deployed as part of an initial phase that ran from March to October 2021. Fourteen African countries met the deployment criteria which included obtaining regulatory approvals, surveillance strengthening activities, cold chain readiness and logistics, targeted communication plans to tackle rumors and disinformation, and training of frontline staff and workers. On average, it took countries around six to eight weeks to complete these requirements, with Nigeria being the fastest country to be fully verified for use in less than four weeks.

Safety of vaccine deployment

WHO in Africa has worked with countries to improve vaccine safety surveillance systems. Countries eligible for outbreak response and in need of support were prioritized, with assistance from the WHO Regional Office for Africa rapid response team. The team provided vaccine safety monitoring guidelines and systems to Angola, Congo and Liberia. The National Post-Vaccine Adverse Events Causality Assessment Committee has also been re-established in countries not only for the safety of the nVPO2 vaccine, but also to assess adverse events related to COVID-19 vaccines. National security teams and partner organizations were instrumental in collecting and reviewing security data.

Based on an independent review of preliminary safety and genetic stability data collected and analyzed by African member states, the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts recommended in October 2021 a wider use of nOPV2. The move to the wider use phase will allow for faster deployment of nOPV2 in the field.

Major changes during the transition to wider deployment include reduced requirements and restrictions. For example, in a larger deployment, the vaccine can be used in integrated campaigns, which means that it can be administered with other vaccines or non-vaccine interventions such as the administration of vitamin A. The requirements that countries must complete to use the vaccine have now been reduced from 25 to 16. This is especially important given that a rapid response to the epidemic is crucial to successfully stopping the circulation of the virus.

During this phase of wider use, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal and Uganda will roll out campaigns targeting a total of around 30 million children, increasing the number of children African children benefiting from effective protection against polio.

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