Vaccine-derived poliovirus was detected in Burundi, Congo

JOHANNESBURG/LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) – Health officials in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have detected cases of vaccine-associated poliovirus, the World Health Organization and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative said.

WHO said Burundi’s government had declared the detection of the virus a national public health emergency after cases were confirmed in an unvaccinated four-year-old boy in the Isale region of western Burundi and two other children who were his contacts.

Five other samples taken from wastewater environmental monitoring confirmed the presence of circulating poliovirus type 2 in Burundi, the WHO added in a statement.

Circulating poliovirus type 2 is different from wild poliovirus, and infections occur when the weakened poliovirus strain contained in the oral polio vaccine circulates among under-immunized populations for long periods of time.

The findings are significant because they relate for the first time to the use of a new vaccine, new oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), which was developed specifically to reduce this risk.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) said in a statement that circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 was found in six children in the eastern Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Burundi plans to implement a polio vaccination campaign in the coming weeks for all eligible children under the age of 7 with the help of WHO and GPEI, WHO said.

“While the discovery of these outbreaks is a tragedy for the affected family and communities, it is not unexpected with the wider use of the vaccine,” said GPEI, a partnership formed by the WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other global health organizations. bodies.

It reported that 600 million doses of the new vaccine had been administered in 28 countries since March 2021 and reiterated that the vaccine was safe and effective.

The DRC has scheduled a vaccination campaign for April, GPEI said.

Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Johannesburg and Jennifer Rigby in London; Editing by Alexander Winning and Alex Richardson

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