Malawi – Polio virus outbreak in Malawi after case was detected for the first time since 1992 has prompted mass vaccination of children against the virus in Southern Africa. In the mass vaccination campaign, more than 23 million young children will be administered vaccine against wild polio. As part of the mass drive, children under age of 5 years began to be immunized in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe on Sunday.
Vaccines will further be offered to children across Malawi, as well as other southern African nations Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe over period of next four months.
First case of wild polio in 30 years was detected last month in Malawi. This was also the first case of wild polio detected in Africa since the continent was certified of being free of indigenous wild polio virus in 2020. So far only Lilongwe has been detected with one case of wild poliovirus. It is known that there are three variants of wild or naturally occurring virus, which is most common polio type. Two types have already been eradicated – WPV2 and WPV3 – while WPV1 remains endemic only in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“In support of Malawi and its neighbours, we are acting fast to halt this outbreak and extinguish the threat through effective vaccinations,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa at the World Health Organization, which is supporting the mass vaccination campaign. “The African region has already defeated wild poliovirus due to a monumental effort by countries. We have the knowhow and are tirelessly working to ensure that every child lives and thrives in a continent free of polio.”
“We want to make sure that our children are protected from this,” Dr Randy Mungwira, WHO deputy incident manager for polio response in Malawi said. “We do not want to see children paralysed from polio in the next few years. We want to stop that.”
11 surveillance sites have been set up by Malawi in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba. Malawi’s health minister, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said the government of Malawi has established emergency committees at national as well as district levels in order monitor cases and assess further risk of spreading of the virus.