NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 24 – Health experts have raised alarm over a renewed risk of an outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived Poliovirus type 2, especially in Northern Kenya, Nairobi and Mombasa following an outbreak in neighbouring countries.
According to a risk analysis, about eleven counties have been flagged as having the greatest risk of polio outbreaks. Apart from Mombasa and Nairobi, the other risk-prone counties are Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Marsabit, Killifi, Turkana, Isiolo and Mandera.
Hillary Limo, a National Disease Surveillance Officer at the Ministry of Health, said apart from polio, lack of vaccination also exposes children to the risk of other infectious diseases such as measles and tuberculosis.
“The Ministry will intensify surveillance activities to detect any possible outbreaks and will continue to collaborate with like-minded institutions to conduct countrywide polio vaccination campaigns to help boost child immunity against the virus. The campaign targets children under the age of five,” he said.
Limo added the health ministry will intensify surveillance activities to detect any possible outbreak and will continue to collaborate with like-minded institutions to conduct countrywide polio vaccination campaigns to help boost child immunity against the virus. The campaign targets children aged below 5 years.
The renewed threat of the virus stems from disruption of immunization programmes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Getrude’s Children’s Hospital CEO Robert Nyarango said the increase of vaccine-derived Poliovirus type 2 in the region can be addressed by ensuring 100 per cent immunization for all children and enhancing water, sanitation and hygiene in high-risk populations.
“Encouragingly, polio vaccines are among the most easily accessible vaccines in Kenya. One is given an oral polio vaccine (OPV) at birth, 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks along with an injectable. They are given at all hospitals (public, faith-based and private) and at times supplemental immunisation activities such as door-to-door campaigns done regularly by the Ministry of Health,” Nyarango said.
The discovery of the two cases in Sudan puts into jeopardy the milestones achieved by the continent in eradicating the virus so far.
This is because when a vaccine-derived poliovirus is detected, a country cannot be certified polio-free as the World Health Organization (WHO) only considers a country to be polio-free it records no case or a positive environmental sample in twelve consecutive months.
According to the WHO, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries reporting wild polio virus cases in the world, with the experts cautioning that African governments and concerned stakeholders must not relax and lower the guards.
The experts spoke on Saturday at an event which was part of activities organized to celebrate the World Polio Day.