Africa’s Historic Victory

A volunteer immunizes a girl against polio in Maradi, Niger on December 3, 2003. Image: Jean-Marc Giboux/Getty
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A volunteer immunizes a girl against polio in Maradi, Niger on December 3, 2003. Image: Jean-Marc Giboux/Getty

After decades of effort, Africa has kicked wild poliovirus from the continent. 

The Africa Regional Certification Commission is expected to officially certify the continent’s polio-free status, The Guardian reports.  

“It’s been a momentous, massive undertaking, with amazing persistence and perseverance, coming in the face of moments when we thought we were just about there, then we’d have a reversal,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.

The news is a momentous victory for millions of community volunteers across the continent, WHO, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, national governments, and others.

The poliovirus, which can cause irreversible paralysis and in some cases death, paralyzed 75,000 children in Africa in 1996.

Cautionary Note: The continent isn’t completely free of polio: Hundreds of Africans are infected every year with vaccine-derived poliovirus, which can cause the same symptoms as the wild virus, The New York Times reports. The vaccine-derived poliovirus remains a threat in areas of low vaccination coverage.

More than 300 cases were recorded in 2019, and experts are expecting a surge in cases in 2020 because of COVID-19 lockdowns’ interference with vaccination campaigns.

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