Polio Eradication Efforts in West and Central Africa

In a crucial stride towards combating polio, a vaccination campaign was launched in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), this multi-country initiative aims to address the prevalent issue of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus and strengthen immunization efforts in West and Central Africa.

Commencement of Polio Vaccination Campaign

On May 26, 2023, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger embarked on an ambitious polio vaccination campaign. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to protect children in the region from the debilitating effects of polio.

Targeted Population

The campaign seeks to immunize a staggering 21 million children under the age of five across the three countries. By focusing on this vulnerable age group, the aim is to ensure that a significant portion of the population receives vital protection against the virus.

Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a multinational effort supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), provides crucial backing for the multi-country initiative. This comprehensive approach involves synchronized vaccinations and collaborative strategies implemented in border communities to halt the transmission of polio.

GPEI, established in 1988 with WHO as a founding member, embarked on a global mission to eradicate polio. This ambitious endeavor necessitated widespread vaccination campaigns to reach every child. The year 2023 holds great significance for GPEI as it serves as the target year to interrupt the remaining transmission chains of wild poliovirus type 1 and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. These goals are outlined in the GPEI Polio Eradication Strategy 2022-2026.

Addressing the Primary Cause

Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus is identified as the primary cause of polio cases in West and Central Africa. The vaccination campaign aims to curtail the transmission of this virus and minimize its impact on affected communities.

Focus on the Lake Chad Basin

The Lake Chad basin stands out as a region with a high percentage of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children worldwide. Recognizing this, the campaign places special emphasis on strengthening immunization activities in this vulnerable area.

The Chad Basin, which encompasses Lake Chad, is Africa’s largest closed drainage basin. It lacks a connection to the ocean and consists of extensive semi-arid desert and savanna regions. This basin extends across eight nations, including a significant portion of Niger and most of Chad. Additionally, Algeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Nigeria, and Sudan are among the other countries encompassed within this geographical region.

Empowering Community Health Workers

The main objective of the vaccination drive is to reinforce immunization activities. Community health workers play a crucial role in achieving this goal by administering vaccines in various settings, including homes, religious centers, markets, and schools. By doing so, the campaign ensures that immunization reaches even the most remote and underserved communities.

Target Year for Transmission Interruption

The target year to interrupt the transmission of both wild poliovirus type 1 and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 is 2023. This ambitious goal reflects the collective determination to eradicate polio and safeguard future generations from its devastating consequences.

Challenges Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges to childhood vaccination worldwide. Overburdened health services, closed clinics, and disrupted supply chains for medical essentials have resulted in declines in vaccination rates in over 100 countries. To counter these challenges, WHO, along with various organizations, initiated ‘The big catch-up’ initiative, which aims to boost essential immunization among children and mitigate the impact of the pandemic.



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