Africa Certified Free of 'Wild' Polio - a Global Health Milestone

The Africa Regional Certification Commission has declared the continent free of endemic polio after a decades-long campaign against the disease. Nigeria, which accounted for more than half of global cases less than a decade ago, is the final African country with no more cases of 'wild' polio. Only conflict areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan still record cases. Now the focus in Africa shifts to vaccinating all vulnerable children, most urgently in northern Nigeria. Without higher levels of immunization, children - in rare cases - will continue to contract polio from a weakened mutation of the virus in a vaccinated child's excrement. Poverty and poor hygiene, as well as contaminated water, raise the potential for spread. It is important to stress that the polio vaccine does not cause polio or infertility, and a vaccinated child does not become ill from the vaccine. Mis-information has deadly consequences - and not only from the virus. In 2013, nine women polio vaccinators in health centers in the Nigerian city of Kano were shot. The message from health professionals and scientists is this: Celebrate Africa's victory against polio. Accelerate the vaccination effort. Spread facts, not fiction, about the vaccine.

Health worker vaccinating children at a nursery school in Nigeria.

Polio vaccination campaign in Borno State, Nigeria, where the virus reappeared in 2016 after a two-year hiatus, showing the need to increase rates of vaccination until community immunity is achieved.

Young people in Freetown, Sierra Leone, who contracted polio as children, when it still circulated in their country.


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