Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

West Africa Prepares for the Final Battle against Polio

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

West Africa Prepares for the Final Battle against Polio

Article excerpt

Ten West African countries will begin a massive, synchronized polio immunization campaign on 23 February 2004 aimed at vaccinating 63 million children in the region in just a few days. The campaign comes just one month after Health Ministers gathered for an emergency meeting at WHO in Geneva calling for commitment to end polio transmission in 2004.

Political, religious and traditional leaders from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon (due to begin vaccination on 20 February), Central African Republic, Chad (due to join the campaign in March), Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Togo will come together to launch the campaign and tens of thousands of vaccinators will go house-to-house over three days to administer the vaccine directly to every child.

"After eight years of incredible collaboration and investment, Africa is standing on the verge of a well-deserved triumph in public health," said Dr Ebrahim Samba, WHO Regional Director for the African Region.

However, hopes of a quick end to polio in Africa have been overshadowed by the recent polio outbreak in Nigeria. Until mid-2003, Nigeria was part of Africa's polio success story, with only a few northern states remaining polio-endemic and the country's capital, Lagos--Africa's most densely populated city--polio-free for over two years. However, suspension of immunization campaigns in the northern state of Kano fuelled by unfounded rumours about the safety of polio vaccine led to an outbreak of the virus which then spread to the neighbouring polio-free countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad Ghana and Togo. …

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