Africa makes significant progress in polio fight

Africa has made significant progress in efforts to eradicate polio, but some remedial actions need to be taken, according to a paper discussed on September 1 by the World Health Organization Regional Committee for Africa in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

According to the paper, coverage for the third dose of DPT–containing vaccine reached 85 percent in 2009, up three points from 2008. Twenty member states reported coverage rates of 90 percent. Nigeria, the only polio-endemic nation in the region, reported only two polio cases at the end of April 2010, compared to 236 at the end of April 2009, according to

Measles rates have also decreased substantially. Deaths were reduced by 92 percent from 2000, when their were 371,000 deaths, to 2008, which saw only 28,000 deaths, according to the WHO paper. Supplemental immunization activities conducted in the region are credited with the decline.

The failure of countries to update policies, non-enforcement of existing legislation that requires children to present their immunization status at schools and a low capacity to implement immunization measures in hard-to-reach locations were all cited as challenges that Africa faces, reports.

The document also recommended several ways to improve routine immunization efforts and accelerate polio eradication, including the integration of an immunization policy into national health development policies and strategic plans.