In 1985, after a successful 1979 polio vaccination campaign in the Philippines, Rotary made a promise to the world to eradicate the polio virus from the world forever. At the time polio was endemic across much of the world and 350,000 cases occurred annually, mainly in children, leading to death or permanent disablement.
At the time the campaign was initiated it was named PolioPlus. The “plus” in PolioPlus initially referred to other vaccines administered along with the polio vaccine. Today, it reflects the fact that the infrastructure, fundraising, and advocacy methods developed for the polio eradication effort are also used to fight other infectious diseases.
Today in 2021 polio is endemic in only 2 countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which due to population mobility between them, can be considered as one endemic area.
The effect of coronavirus.
The advent of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic initially caused an interruption to polio vaccinations in most countries but despite the stretching of the polio surveillance and reporting system to also monitor the pandemic, vaccination campaigns are once more underway and as I write in Jan 21 Pakistan is again engaged in a national campaign with the aim of vaccinating 40M children with both Afghanistan and Pakistan having conducted national immunisation days during the latter half of 2020.
Current infection rates.
In 2020 there were 139 cases of wild polio virus between Afghanistan and Pakistan whilst there were 176 in the previous year; however, across the world there were also 959 cases of the circulating Type 2 vaccine derived polio (cVDPV2) which is proving an increasing threat in less developed countries with poorer vaccination coverage of their infant populations.
At the time of writing (20 July 21) there have only been 2 cases of WPV during the current calendar year and 139 cases of cVDPV which is highly encouraging.
Circulating Vaccine Derived Polio.
What causes circulation vaccine derived Polio? There were originally 3 types of the wild polio in circulation; Type 2 was the first of the 3 types to be eradicated in 2016; thereafter the Type 2 vaccine was discontinued from the tri-valent Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and a bi-valent vaccine covering only Types 1 and 3 was substituted. Since then, Type 3 virus has also been eradicated but vaccination continues with the bivalent OPV. When this vaccine is administered, the weakened vaccine-virus replicates in the intestine and enters the bloodstream, triggering a protective immune response. However, during this replication process, some of the vaccine-virus may genetically mutate from the original attenuated strain and become neurovirulent (able to cause paralysis and circulate in communities). The neurovirulent virus is then able to infect those in an under-vaccinated community by person to person contact or after it escapes into the environment.
What is hoped to be the end-game battle against the circulating virus is now about to be launched with a new novel polio vaccine (nOPV2). This vaccine has received Emergency Use Listing to address the rising number of cVDPV2 cases in a number African and East Mediterranean countries.
What can we do as Rotarians?
Maintain our donations, fundraising and advocacy the roles allocated to Rotarians when the GPEI was first initiated:
Your Polio Team
We have a 3 strong team which seeks to inform and support you in your Polio activities: our Polio Champions are Eric Hall (Melton Mowbray) and Sally Searle (St Neots) and our Polio Ambassador is Mark Esho, who, as a polio survivor, continues to fight a very personal battle with the disease.
Our Team will be happy to visit
your club either face-to-face or, in this coronavirus affected period
virtually, to inform you more fully about polio and how we are progressing to
the end game. So call Eric or Sally and
they will arrange a visit.
more Update from our EPN Co-ordinators
more An update on Rotary's effort to rid the World of this dreadful illness.
more An update on Rotary International's effort to rid the world of Polio.
back The End Polio Now campaign is now in a critical phase with only 5 cases of WPV occurring during 2021- could this be the last year with cases of WPV induced polio?