WHO South-East Asia region polio-free, accelerated efforts needed in light of rising risks: experts

The WHO Southeast Asia Region has maintained its polio-free status despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but needs to scale up measures in light of the persistent and increasing risks of polio globally.

“Countries have made efforts, but there are still gaps, especially at the subnational level. We need to expand surveillance and immunization coverage and modernize our capacity to respond to the outbreak,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for Southeast Asia on behalf of Southeast Asia. Polio for rapid and timely response in the event of a polio outbreak The Regional Certification Committee for Polio Eradication met here to review the situation in the Region.

Chairs of the National Certification Committees and the Global Certification Committee; Representatives of donor and partner agencies and the World Health Organization participated in the two-day meeting earlier this week.

The panel concluded that the province had no cases of wild-type poliovirus or circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV). However, risks remain due to the continued prevalence of wild poliovirus type 1 in endemic countries bordering the region, as well as due to cVDPVs that have been reported from several countries in other regions.

The committee recommended that “the situation requires continuous monitoring until global polio eradication is achieved”.

The regional director said that globally polio remains a public health emergency of international concern. Earlier this month, New York declared a state of emergency after the polio virus was detected in sewage samples. In recent months, cases of wild poliovirus type 1 have been reported in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malawi and Mozambique.

In June, the IHR’s 32nd Emergency Committee on Polio assessed the risk of international spread of cVDPV2 or circulating poliovirus type 2 vaccine, as high, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak affecting routine immunization services in many countries. cVDPVs are a risk in areas with low immunization coverage.

“Today, coverage in the Region for bivalent oral polio vaccines and largely inactivated polio vaccines has either stabilized or improved since 2020; however, the trajectory in many countries remains a cause for concern,” said Dr. Khetrapal Singh.

Although the region has been able to maintain global monitoring standards throughout the COVID-19 response, there are differences at the national and subnational levels that need to be addressed, she said.

Emphasizing on maintaining adequate resources amid massive financial pressures, Dr Khetrapal Singh said enabling polio networks in the Region to strengthen immunization systems and carry out other public health functions would help priority countries in maintaining basic capacities and infrastructure until polio eradication is achieved. Globally.

“The past two and a half years – nearly three years – have not been easy, but the region’s continued polio-free status is a testament to the dedication and commitment of the polio workforce, many of whom have contributed significantly to the spread of the coronavirus,” said the regional director.

In the two-day meeting on September 21 and 22, updates on the polio situation were shared from the WHO Africa Region, WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, WHO European Region and WHO Western Pacific Region to the World Health Organization.