ore than 99% of children under 5 years old in Guinea-Bissau have been immunised against polio, after four cases were confirmed in the country in October 2021, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Preliminary results show that 99.2% of the target population [340,465 children under 5 years old] have been vaccinated. Polio is a viral disease that causes permanent paralysis and cannot be cured but can be prevented with an effective and safe oral vaccine,” the WHO said in a press release.
Guinea-Bissau had been declared polio-free in 2019, after having recorded no cases since 1998, but in October 2021 the laboratory of the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, confirmed the presence of the virus in four samples.
In 2019, Senegal and Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau’s neighbours, had already recorded cases.
To contain the outbreak, the WHO has recommended two vaccination campaigns, one in April and another this month, using the new type 2 oral polio vaccine.
“Guinea-Bissau was a pioneer as it was the first country in the world to conduct a polio campaign using the new vaccine, along with vitamin A supplementation and deworming with Mebendazole,” said Nirakar Panda, coordinator of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, quoted in the statement.
The strategy also helped address the measles outbreak affecting some parts of the country.