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Nigeria’s polio-free status intact, FG affirms

By Chukwuma Muanya
25 October 2021   |   3:18 am
The Federal Government, yesterday, on the occasion of this year’s World Polio Day (WPD), assured that Nigeria’s free polio status remains intact amid rising cases of mutant circulating

[FILES] A child receives the vaccine PHOTO: Reuters<br />

The Federal Government, yesterday, on the occasion of this year’s World Polio Day (WPD), assured that Nigeria’s free polio status remains intact amid rising cases of mutant circulating vaccine-derived polio virus (cvdpv) in parts of the country.

To address the situation, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, told journalists that to stop the circulation of the mutant forms in about 23 states across the federation, government was deploying a new tool, oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), targeted at children of ages zero to 59 months.

Shuaib, who is also a consultant public health physician, said “this new tool is found to be more stable in the environment and less likely to cause ceding and changes of the polio virus to a mutant form that causes more spread and paralysis to Nigerian children.”

Nigeria and the African region were certified Wild Poliovirus (WPV)-free on August 25, 2020 after more than two decades of intensive and aggressive government-led mass vaccination campaigns, with the last case reported in Borno in 2016.

Shuaib said since certification, the country has not recorded any case of transmission of WPV in any part whatsoever.

On this year’s WPD with the theme, “One Day. One Focus: Ending Polio – delivering on our promise of a polio-free world,” the NPHCDA joined Rotary International (RI), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other development partners to appreciate the sacrifices of Nigeria’s heroes and heroines and reaffirm commitment to deliver on promise to maintain a polio-free Nigeria and a polio-free world.

The NPHCDA boss said though tremendous progress had been made globally and only two countries –Afghanistan and Pakistan – are endemic for the WPV, other mutant forms of the virus, have regrettable, continued to circulate in many African nations, including Nigeria.

Shuaib said the government, through the NPHCDA, however, remains committed to sustaining the country’s WPV eradication status and ending the transmission of all forms of polio viruses for which reason the country still conducts mass campaigns.

He added: “As we commemorate World Polio Day, we reaffirm our unalloyed determination and commitment to continue working with Rotary International and our development partners to ensure that every child everywhere in Nigeria is vaccinated with nOPV2 to stop the circulation of these mutant variants called vaccine-derived poliovirus.”

Chairman, Expert Review Committee on Polio, Prof. Oyewole Tomori, told The Guardian: “If the wild poliovirus is introduced into Nigeria, directly or indirectly from say Afghanistan or Pakistan, the two countries where the wild virus is circulating, then it may spread as the cvdpv is currently circulating in Nigeria

“Currently in 2021, we have reported 443 cvdpv isolates from 21 states, made of 195 (from Acute Flaccid Paralysis/AFP cases), 169 (from contacts of AFP cases) and 79 (from environmental samples). We had 141 in 2018, 87 in 2019 and 22 in 2020. I suspect the low number in 2020 may have resulted from COVID-19 related or induced poor level of surveillance and other health intervention activities.”

On the implication of this situation on Nigeria’s polio-free status, Tomori noted: “So far, nothing much to worry about the certificate, if we focus on what is written on the certificate. The certificate reads, ‘successfully interrupted the transmission of indigenous wild poliovirus’. What we have now is transmission of vaccine-derived poliovirus.”

On his message on WPD, the virologist said: “We have won a battle, but not the war against polio. There is no victory until nobody is ever paralysed or killed by polio virus. Let us ensure that every Nigerian child receives the appropriate and full doses of vaccine for preventable diseases.”