Nigeria and other African states overseen by the African Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) have committed to ending all remaining forms of polio.
The Regional Office has also presented a scorecard to monitor progress towards the eradication of the virus.
The African region was certified free of wild polio virus a year ago, after four years without a case.
However, outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) are spreading in African communities where too few children have received the polio vaccine.
cVDPV is a weakened strain of the virus that has changed over time to behave more like the naturally occurring polio virus.
The WHO said in a statement on Thursday that the pledges were made at the special 71st meeting of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa.
Since 2018, 23 countries in the region have experienced outbreaks and more than half of the 1071 global cVDPV cases have been recorded in Africa.
According to the WHO, the number of cases increased last year, in part due to disruptions to polio vaccination campaigns due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the meeting, countries discussed how they will implement the new Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) 2022-2026 strategy, launched in June to urgently stop the spread of cVDPVs.
Tactics and tools include promoting the speed and quality of response to outbreaks, for example through the rapid deployment of WHO surveillance personnel.
It also includes improving polio vaccine uptake by integrating polio campaigns to reach children who have never been vaccinated.
Also broadening the rollout of the new oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), a new tool that could more sustainably end outbreaks of the most common type 2 cVDPV.
To date, six countries in Africa have rolled out this vaccine with nearly 40 million children vaccinated and noted no safety concerns.
Ministers also committed to regularly review progress through the scorecard, which will track the timely implementation of a high-quality response to a polio outbreak, introduce the new oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2) for wider use, and a strategic, phased approach.
“Our success in ending wild polio virus in the region shows what is possible when we work together with urgency,” WHO Regional Director for Africa quoted Matshidiso as quoted Muti.
According to her, nearly 100 million African children have been vaccinated against polio since July 2020.
While COVID-19 threatened this success, Moeti argued that it was possible to overcome the final hurdles. We have the know-how, but it needs to be backed up by dedicated resources to reach all under-vaccinated communities.
Also discussed at the meeting to support immunization and disease surveillance once polio is eradicated, which will be achieved by transferring polio infrastructure to countries’ health systems.
The polio program has a history of supporting response to emerging health threats in the region, including Ebola and COVID-19, and half of the polio workforce is currently helping countries with COVID-19 surveillance, contact tracing and community involvement.
dr. Tunji Funsho, chairman of Rotary’s National PolioPlus Committee in Nigeria, called for increased political and financial commitment from governments and partners.
According to him, they must “not only quickly contain outbreaks, but also increase vaccination coverage and provide children with lasting protection against this preventable disease”.