Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)
Polio this week as of 12 August 2020
:: A cVDPV2 outbreak has been detected in Sudan. WHO and UNICEF are working closely with the Ministry of Health to plan and launch an effective outbreak response to limit virus spread.
:: Polio vaccination campaigns continue to resume in countries worldwide in the context of strict COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures. This week a campaign will go ahead in some areas of Pakistan, the second held in the nation since campaigns resumed in July.
:: Dr. Joanna Nikulin has been appointed as the Coordinator of the GPEI Hub in Amman, Jordan, effective immediately. Dr. Nikulin has over 15 years of experience in polio eradication, immunization and child health, and has served in some of the most challenging settings worldwide. She has been acting as the interim Hub Coordinator since September 2019.
:: Tributes have been paid by the polio programme to David Newberry, fondly remembered as the ‘father of the Core Group Polio Project’. After years spent eradicating smallpox and fighting guinea worm, David turned his determination and expertise to the battle against polio. Under his leadership, immense progress was made against polio in countries including Angola, India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Bangladesh and Nepal. Colleagues of David extend their deepest sympathies to his family and friends, and remember him fondly here.
Summary of new WPV and cVDPV viruses this week (AFP cases and environmental samples):
:: Afghanistan: 14 cVDPV2 cases and eight cVDPV2 positive environmental samples
:: Pakistan: five WPV1 positive environmental samples and one cVDPV2 positive environmental sample
:: Chad: five cVDPV2 cases
:: Cote d’Ivoire: six cVDPV2 cases
:: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo): one cVDPV2 case
:: Ethiopia: two cVDPV2 cases
:: Mali: two cVDPV2 positive environmental samples
:: Sudan: three cVDPV2 positive environmental samples
Polio vaccination campaigns resume in Afghanistan and Pakistan after COVID-19 disruptions leave 50 million children unimmunized
KATHMANDU, 11 August 2020 – Polio immunization campaigns have resumed in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the last two polio-endemic countries in the world – months after COVID-19 left 50 million children without their polio vaccine.
In Afghanistan, polio immunization programmes restarted in three provinces in July. A second campaign covering almost half of the country will start this month. In Pakistan, an initial round of vaccinations took place at the end of July, covering about 780,000 children. A nationwide vaccination campaign is slated to start later this month.
“These life-saving vaccinations are critical if children are to avoid yet another health emergency,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. “As the world has come to see only too well, viruses know no borders and no child is safe from polio until every child is safe.”…
Child vaccination drives, including polio campaigns, were halted in both Afghanistan and Pakistan in March 2020 to avoid the risk of COVID-19 transmission to children, caregivers and vaccinators themselves. As a result, reported polio cases have reached 34 in Afghanistan and 63 in Pakistan, including in some previously polio-free parts of the country.
The application of new vaccination guidelines and the use of protective equipment by frontline health workers will help ensure that vaccination campaigns resume safely.
However, while every effort will be made to reach children nationwide in both countries, UNICEF is concerned that up to 1 million children in Afghanistan could miss out as door-to-door vaccinations are not possible in some areas and parents will have to make their way to health clinics to have their child vaccinated. In Pakistan, the suspension of vaccination drives has also resulted in the expansion and introduction of the disease into new areas of the country.
“Although we have experienced new challenges and a setback in the fight against polio because of COVID-19, the eradication of this contagious disease will get back on track and is firmly within our reach,” said Jean Gough. “Together with the respective Governments and other partners including the WHO, Rotary, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and with the dedicated work by frontline health workers, we are committed to reaching every child.”