New Delhi: Countries across South-East Asia are making efforts against polio but a gap persists at sub-national level, WHO’s Regional Director, South-East Asia, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said.
“We need to scale up surveillance and immunisation coverage and update our polio outbreak response capacities to respond rapidly and timely in the event of a polio outbreak,” she said as the South-East Asia Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication met here to review the situation in the region.
The chairs of national certification committees and global certification commission, representatives of donor and partner agencies, and thwe WHO participated in the two-day meeting this week.
The Commission concluded that the region did not have any case of wild polio virus or circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV), but risks persist due to continued circulation of wild polio virus type 1 in endemic countries bordering the region, as well as due to the cVDPVs being reported from several countries of other regions.
“The situation requires constant monitoring until global polio eradication is achieved,” the Commission recommended.
The Regional Director said globally polio remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Earlier this month, New York declared a state of emergency following the detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples. In recent months cases of wild poliovirus type 1 have been reported in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malawi, and Mozambique.
“Today, coverage in the region of the bivalent oral polio vaccine and inactivated polio vaccine has for the most part stabilised or improved since 2020; however, the trajectory in several countries continues to be cause for concern,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
Though the region was able to maintain global surveillance standards throughout the Covid-19 response, there are variations at national and sub-national levels that need to be addressed, she said.
Emphasising on sustaining adequate resources amid immense fiscal stress, Dr Khetrapal Singh said that enabling polio networks in the region to strengthen immunisation systems and carry out other public health functions will help polio-priority countries maintain core capacities and infrastructure until global polio eradication is achieved.
“The last year two and a half years – almost three – have not been easy, but the region’s continued polio-free status is a testament to the dedication and commitment of polio programme workforce, many of whom have significantly contributed to the COVID-19 response, and the steadfast resolve of donors and partners,” she added.
At the two-day meeting on September 21-22, updates on polio situation were also shared from WHO’s Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, European and Western Pacific Regions.