Friday, October 5, 2007

Preventing the Polio Paradox

Today the International Herald Tribune reported on yet more stumbling blocks along the road to eradicate polio in Nigeria. In 2003 northern Nigerian politicians blocked polio immunization campaigns by claiming that the vaccine was a Western attempt to sterilize their Muslim population. The result was a polio outbreak and a set back on the WHO's mission to eradicate polio worldwide. However, now that the immunization campaign with the oral vaccine has resumed, Nigeria faces new polio problems. In rare cases the weakened live virus shed by vaccinated children mutates and causes disease in unimmunized children. Such circumstances have created a polio outbreak. Since 2005, 69 Nigerian children have been paralyzed by a vaccine-derived polio virus. Yet to solve this problem, an immunization campaign must continue to reduce the number of unvaccinated children susceptible to a mutated form of the polio virus. Unfortunately this outbreak may strengthen the rumor that the vaccine is unsafe. The fact that CDC and WHO officials were aware of this outbreak a year ago, but are only now publicly acknowledging it, may only further diminish their credibility. These recent events show that the quest to elimination polio globally must be one of both eradication and education.

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Posted by Mary Clare

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