Jon Abramson, chairman of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), has advised the World Health Organization to administering type 2 strain vaccine of polio virus for children so as to be able to defeat the children crippling disease once and for all.
Polio has no cure and can only be prevented by receiving oral vaccines which destroy the three types of the disease virus. Polio primarily attacks the nervous system and can cause serious paralysis within hours of infection.
SAGE recommends that WHO stop administering the vaccine that targets type 2 of the polio virus and only administer types 1 and 3 because type 2 has not surfaced since 1999 and administering its vaccine tends to spread it in countries where vaccine coverage is low. It advised that only types 1 and 3 be given between April 17 and May 1, 2016 for children in countries that need the vaccine.
Abramson on Friday said the group decided that through a momentous decision that a switch be made in the vaccines because that is the only way that polio can be totally eradicated. Only smallpox had been totally wiped out all over the world, and Abramson thinks it is time to target polio for total wipe-out across the globe.
Only Pakistan and Afghanistan have reported the three strains of polio cases this year, and no other country has reported a new case because of a global vaccination campaign to eradicate the disease. Vaccination makes people to excrete the virus and this puts unvaccinated people at risk of catching the disease, with few places such as Ukraine, Laos, Madagascar, and Guinea reporting cases.
Abramson said WHO must stop giving type 2 vaccine for polio virus because this is what is causing it to surface in places with low vaccinations, but that once this is not administered anymore, no new outbreaks of the disease would be seen anywhere.
Director of polio eradication at the WHO, Hamid Jafari, said the ultimate objective of the world health agency is to phase out type 1 and 3 vaccines and then switch to inactivated vaccines – these are injected and not swallowed, and costlier than others; but they don’t carry the risk of spreading the virus to others.
“We need at least three years of no wild polio virus circulation and good surveillance for the Global Commission (for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication) to certify eradication of wild polio virus,” he said.