18 April 2018

Namibia Gets Ready for Polio Outbreak

Photo: UNICEF/Olivier Asselin
An infant receives a dose of oral polio vaccine during a routine immunization session (file photo).

THE World Health Organisation trained health officers from different ministries, civil society organisations and development partners on standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the polio virus and its outbreak response in the capital recently.

The country representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Charles Sagoe-Moses, said the training was for health staff from the national and regional levels.

"This is in line with the polio eradication and endgame strategic plan 2013-2018. Following the globally coordinated switch from trivalent oral polio vaccine to bivalent oral polio vaccine, which was conducted from 17 April to 1 May 2016, all countries are required to conduct a polio simulation exercise (POSE) to assess the robustness of the country polio preparedness and response plan," Sagoe-Moses said.

In September 2015, the WHO declared that the wild polio virus type 2 had been eradicated from the planet - no cases caused by this serotype had been detected since November 1999.

In May 2012, the World Health Assembly declared the completion of polio virus eradication to be a 'programmatic emergency for global public health', and called on the director general of the WHO to develop a comprehensive polio end-game strategy.

The global polio eradication initiative's polio eradication and endgame strategic plan 2013 to 2018, approved by the executive board of the WHO in January 2013, requires the phased removal of all oral polio vaccines (OPVs).

Sagoe-Moses said the training thus aimed to update participants on the revised standard operating procedures, and to support all health districts to prepare for prompt responses in the case of any polio virus event or outbreak.

"This was to develop the capacity of healthcare providers and partners in line with the SOPs, and review and update the Namibian polio virus preparedness and response plan. WHO staff from the IST-ESA conducted the training," he said.

Sagoe-Moses added that quality surveillance is critical for Namibia, given its proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been experiencing circulating vaccine derived polio viruses (cVDPV) last year and this year, as well as to sustain the polio certification documentation status submitted in 2008.

Participants at the workshop expressed gratitude for the training, indicating that some principles can be applied in most outbreaks, especially in light of the recent health emergencies that they were faced with.

- Additional information from WHO International.

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