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Polio: Experts Warn Against Complacency

Medical experts have urged  Nigerians not to rest on their oars despite the certification of the country as polio-free, saying while the country has been removed from the list of polio-endemic countries,  Nigeria has not been certified polio-free yet.

Director of WHO National Polio Laboratory, University of Ibadan, Dr. Johnson Adeniji, said for the first time, Nigeria had been able to interrupt the transmission of wild polio virus.

Adeniji stated that it would however, take another 24 months of interruption of wild polio virus transmission before the country could
be certified polio-free and eradicated.

“If you can interrupt polio transmission for one year; you will be removed the list of endemic countries. That is not to say we have eradicated polio. For you to eradicate, polio you must maintain that free status for three solid years.

“So now, we still have 24 months to be under observation; so we still need to continue to work. People should take seriously the issue of polio eradication very well such that we will be able to sing the song that Nigeria is polio free.”

Head, Molecular Biology and Bio-technology Division, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Bamidele Iwalokun, tasked stakeholders not to “rest on their oars.”

Iwalokun called for continued vigilance, saying the stakeholders must harmonise immunisation goals for effective vaccine delivery
across the country.

According to him, information and surveillance are key factors in identifying areas with low immunisation coverage.

“What it means is that in two years time, if there are no polio cases in Nigeria, the country will now be totally polio eradicated like small
pox in the 1980s.

“We are no longer spreading polio now, we need to sustain the engines that drive the public health. “In as much as we are improving the attitudes of caregivers thorough education and political engagement, our health system also needs to be strengthened.

“The interaction between a caregiver and an immunisation health worker should be cordial in such a way that the confidence will improve about the vaccine.

“Then once and for all the government should tackle the Boko Haram; the militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan is majorly responsible for why they are still endemic for polio.

“We are winning the battle of Boko Haram; we should win that battle as soon as possible so that we will be able to reap more benefits in terms of improving immunisation coverage for other vaccines so that in the nearest future, Nigeria will not only be polio-free but measles-free.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) penultimate Friday announced that polio was no longer endemic in Nigeria. The global health body said “all laboratory data confirmed that 12 months has passed without any new case of polio in the country.” WHO in an earlier report had said that as recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide.


– Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan

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