Over 80mn polio doses to be administered in Africa: WHO

Brazzaville, March 19 (IANS) The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that more than 80 million polio doses will be administered to over 23 million children under five years in a mass vaccination campaign in the African nations of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The vaccination campaign will involve four rounds, the WHO regional office for Africa in Brazzaville said in a statement.

The first round of the campaign, scheduled for this month, targets 9.4 million children in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.

Malawi declared an outbreak on February 17, the first such case in the country in 30 years, and the first in Africa since the region was certified free of indigenous wild poliovirus in 2020.

Three subsequent rounds, in which Zimbabwe will also take part, are set for April, June and July, aiming to reach over 23 million children with more than 80 million doses of the bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine recommended by the WHO for wild poliovirus type 1.

“Polio is a highly infectious and an untreatable disease that can result in permanent paralysis. In support of Malawi and it neighbors, we are acting fast to halt this outbreak and extinguish the threat through effective vaccinations,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti.

“The African region has already defeated wild poliovirus due to a monumental effort by countries. We have the know-how and are tirelessly working to ensure that every child lives and thrives in a continent free of polio.”

The African region was declared and certified as free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild poliovirus.

The region’s certification as wild polio-free remains unchanged.