May 2014 , Dr. Maria Katrina Florcruz
More low- and middle-income countries will now have access to the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently announced that the price for the vaccine will be reduced for these nations.
According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013 to 2018, there are 125 countries which presently use the trivalent oral polio vaccine (OPV). The Endgame Strategic Plan advocates the introduction of a dose of IPV in the immunization schedule of these countries by end-2015. This is expected to improve immunity, prevent vaccine-associated outbreaks and accelerate the eradication of the remaining polio virus by 2018. The higher cost of IPV has been a barrier for countries still using the trivalent OPV.
“With the support of partners, the inactivated polio vaccine has now become more affordable for 17 countries in the Western Pacific Region,” said WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr. Shin Young-soo.
More than 21 million children in the region are expected to benefit from the introduction of the IPV. At the same time, this will help maintain the region’s polio-free status and contribute to the virus’ eradication by 2018, Young-soo added.
Support for the introduction of IPV in places like Cambodia, Kiribati, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vietnam will be provided by the Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization. For China, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Philippines, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, options are available to either purchase the vaccine directly from manufacturers or through UNICEF.
The Western Pacific Region has been polio-free since 2000. Although it has maintained this status, vigilance is necessary until virus transmission is completely stopped in polio-endemic countries, namely Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
According to Dr. Mark Jacobs, director of the Division of Combating Communicable Diseases for the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, there are threats of wild poliovirus reappearance. “In our region, for instance, cases of imported polio virus were detected from 2006 to 2012 in Singapore, Australia and China. These and other examples in the Horn of Africa, Syria and Cameroon highlight the urgency of achieving global polio eradication,” he added.
GPEI’s Endgame Strategic Plan to end polio by 2018 aims to help in this advocacy through the detection and interruption of all polio virus transmission, strengthening immunization systems and withdrawal of oral polio vaccine, containment of the polio virus and certifying interruption of transmission, and planning polio’s legacy
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