By Chioma Obinna
As the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission(ARCC), granted the WHO Africa Region (WHO-Afro), region ‘wild poliovirus free’ status, Sanofi Pasteur, has described it as a major milestone for Nigeria, WHO Africa Region and the overall global efforts to free the world of polio.
Sanofi Pasteur is the world’s single largest producers of vaccines.
Nigeria was the last wild poliovirus endemic country in the region, and it recorded no new cases in three years–the requisite period–since it last reported cases of wild poliovirus.
In Nigeria, Sanofi Pasteur has been working in collaboration with stakeholders such as the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA, WHO, UNICEF and several multi-lateral and non-governmental organizations in the national immunisation programmes for children under 5 years of age.
Charles Wolf, Vaccines Head for Africa, said: “The ambition to eradicate polio from the world has been a long journey. The recent declaration by ARCC certifying the WHO Africa region as free of wild poliovirus is a watershed for the WHO and all partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
“For over three decades, we at Sanofi Pasteur have been supporting the global public health coalition on polio through our expertise and the provision of innovative vaccines to support national, regional and global immunization programs for children under 5 years of age”.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease transmitted from person to person, mainly through a fecal- oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food and multiplies inside the intestines. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. Among those paralysed, 5 to10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Polio mainly affects children under 5 years of age.
There is no cure but the disease can be prevented through administration of a simple and effective vaccine, given multiple times.
Wild poliovirus cases have decreased by over 99 per cent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries then, to 33 reported cases in 2018.
Of the three strains of wild polio virus (type1, type2 and type3), wild polio virus type 2 was eradicated in1999 and no case of wild poliovirus type3 has been found since the last reported case in Nigeria in November2012.
In 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)was launched by several stakeholders involved in global public health and led by the World Health Organisation.
At that time, polio was endemic in 125 countries with more than 350,000 children paralyzed each year. Since then, thanks to the strong collaborations across the GPEI, there has been a 99.9 percent decrease in paralytic cases.
The fight against polio worldwide is not yet over.
Sanofi Pasteur remains committed to supporting the GPEI until the disease is eradicated worldwide. Once polio is eradicated, the world can celebrate the delivery of a major global public good that will benefit all people equally, no matter where they live. By then, no child will ever again suffer the terrible effects of lifelong polio-paralysis.