Nigeria’s federal government on Thursday said it was working with development partners to address cases of circulating mutant polio virus Type2 (cMPV2) found in some parts of the country. It blamed the cases of polio outbreak on disruptions to routine immunisation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement signed by Executive Director of the National Primary HealthCare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the agency stated that it had already acquired new tools and resources to ensure the outbreak of polio was contained through robust outbreak responses using the novel Oral Polio Vaccine (nOPV2).
He said the vaccine had been shown to be effective in halting the spread of the cMPV2.
The statement said, “All 36 states and FCT have completed at least one nOPV2 Outbreak Response (OBR). Several other rounds of the OBR as well as other campaigns to improve the mucosal immunity of children aged o-5 years old using Injectable Polio Vaccine (IPV) have also been planned for this year. Efforts are also being ramped up to increase routine immunisation coverage beyond pre-COVID values,” he said.
Shuaib who said the attention of NPHCDA and development partners was drawn to some media reports, (not THISDAY) claiming that there was an outbreak of a new polio virus in some states.
He said, “For the avoidance of doubt, no case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) has been reported anywhere in the country since the last case in 2016. We currently have 395 cases of Circulating Mutant Poliovirus Type 2 (cMPV2) across 27 states and the FCT.
“Nigeria and the African region were certified Wild Polio Virus (WPV) free in 2020, following a rigorous verification and certification process by the African Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication (ARCC) which spanned three years of no detection of WPV. Till date, there has been no case of WPV anywhere in the country.”
Shuaib said the cMPV2 outbreaks were caused by immunity gaps in children due to several reasons, including low routine immunisation coverage, and missing children during immunisation campaigns.
He further said the suspension of several polio campaigns and other health programmes in 2020, as well as disruptions to routine immunisation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, created further immunity gaps which led to new and wider outbreaks, and further increased transmission of the circulating mutant poliovirus both globally and within Nigeria.
Shuaib added that the virus thrived in areas with poor sanitation, open defecation, and inadequate access to clean drinking water.
According to him, these condition allows the virus to be easily transmitted from one person to another through contaminated water and poor sewage disposal.
The NPHCDA boss said malnutrition occasioned by increasing poverty was also a predisposing factor in exposed children.
He then, “These non-wild polio viruses which originated because of normal changes in the reproduction of viruses in the environment are not as virulent as WPV and are also being reported in many other countries.
“NPHCDA assures Nigerians that the agency and partners will continue to conduct surveillance and vaccination campaigns to prevent and contain any possible importation of the Wild Polio Virus into the country.
“We use this opportunity to reiterate the importance of parents and caregivers bringing their children for routine immunisation against vaccine preventable diseases.”
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja