Why do some folks think that the polio vaccine is causing polio outbreaks in Africa?
Well, it’s because it’s true. Vaccine-derived polio is a very unfortunate adverse reaction of the oral polio vaccine, a vaccine that we are hoping to soon phase out.
Is the Polio Vaccine Causing Polio Outbreaks in Africa?
Have you heard the other recent news about polio in Africa?
Africa has been declared free of wild polio!
Wait, how can they be free of wild polio and still have polio outbreaks?
Again, the oral polio vaccine can rarely cause vaccine-derived polio, and in the past year, there have been outbreaks of cVPDV in Chad, DR Congo, and Nigeria that have spread to other countries in Africa. So these outbreaks are actually caused by the vaccine and not by the wild polio virus.
Far from being disastrous, although causing outbreaks of cVDPV is certainly not what anyone would want, it is important to remember that the oral polio vaccine has helped to eliminate wild polio in this region and in most of the rest of the world!
“Episodes of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus are rare. Over the past ten years – a period during which more than 10 billion doses of oral polio vaccine were given worldwide – cVDPV outbreaks resulted in fewer than 800 cases cases (data updated weekly). In the same period, in the absence of vaccination with OPV, more than 6.5 million children would have been paralysed by wild poliovirus.”Vaccine-Derived Polioviruses
So while we do still have cases of cVDPV to fight back, keep in mind that before the polio vaccine campaigns began, the number of children who were paralyzed by polio each and every year was tremendously higher.
“This incredible public health achievement —the interruption of wild poliovirus transmission from every corner of the African region—began 24 years ago with a call-to-action by the late South African President Nelson Mandela. He challenged African heads of state and leaders to mobilize to “kick polio out of Africa.” At the time, 75,000 African children a year were being paralyzed by polio.”Africa Kicks Out Wild Polio
When you think about it that way, is it really a disaster to go from 75,000 kids getting paralyzed by natural infections with the polio virus each year to a few hundred cases of cVDPV?
“cVDPVs can occur if not enough children receive the polio vaccine. In under-immunized populations, the live weakened virus in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) can pass between individuals and, over time, change to a form that can cause paralysis—resulting in cVDPV cases. This means that the cVDPV outbreaks we’re seeing today are revealing pockets across the continent where immunization rates are too low.”How the African Region is Celebrating the End of Wild Polio while cVDPV Outbreaks Continue
Especially when these outbreaks of cVDPV can be stopped with “high vaccination coverage and strong surveillance?”
More on Polio Outbreaks in Africa
- Are More Polio Cases Now Being Caused by the Vaccine Than by Wild Polio Viruses?
- What Happens if We Stop Using Oral Polio Vaccines?
- Why Do Anti-Vax Folks Get Excited About Polio Outbreaks?
- What Is the Morbidity/Mortality Rate of the Polio Vaccine vs the Wild Virus?
- The Myth That Polio Only Went Away Because They Changed the Way It Was Diagnosed
- Why Do We Still Vaccinate If Polio Has Been Eliminated?
- Nelson Mandela on Vaccines
- Vaccine-Derived Polioviruses
- CDC – Africa Kicks Out Wild Polio
- WHO – Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 – African Region
- Global Polio Eradication Initiative applauds WHO African Region For Wild Polio-Free certification
- Q&A with Helen Rees – How the African Region is Celebrating the End of Wild Polio while cVDPV Outbreaks Continue
- Confronting outbreaks of polio in Somalia
- Polio eradication expertise backs Africa’s COVID-19 response
- IAC – Ask the Experts about Polio Vaccines
- Circulating Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus and the Eradication Endgame
- The switch from trivalent to bivalent oral poliovirus vaccine: Will it lead to polio?