Vaccine-derived poliovirus detected in Burundi and Congo

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

The WHO said the Burundian 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 Isale district, western Burundi. , and two other children who were his contacts.

Five other samples from environmental monitoring of wastewater 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, with infections occurring when a weakened strain of poliovirus contained in the oral polio vaccine circulates among underimmunized populations for long periods of time.

The detections are important because they are the first linked to the use of a new vaccine, the new type 2 oral polio vaccine (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 has been found in six children in the eastern Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces of the DRC. .

Burundi plans to conduct 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 detection of these outbreaks is a tragedy for the family and communities affected, it is not unexpected with wider use of the vaccine,” said the GPEI, a partnership made up of WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other global health organizations. body.

He said 600 million doses of the new vaccine had been administered in 28 countries since March 2021, and reaffirmed that the vaccine was safe and effective.

The DRC has planned 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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