Fiocruz News Agency (AFN)
Over the last century, poliomyelitis affected hundreds of thousands of people, causing irreversible paralysis and claiming lives. Global vaccination efforts against this infectious and contagious disease, however, managed to drastically reduce its dissemination and impact. These efforts are currently being put to the test by recent challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and armed conflicts, in addition to vaccine hesitation. As a consequence, an international group of scientists and health workers has issued a warning and launched a digital mobilization campaign to promote vaccination and the eradication of the disease by 2026. It is called the “2022 Scientific Declaration on Polio: The Urgent Need to Achieve a Polio-Free World”.
Fiocruz is part of this mobilization and its president, Nísia Trindade Lima, is one of the co-leads and signatory of the declaration. With her are leaders of medical associations, universities, among other institutions, from Cameroon, China, the United States, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Pakistan. To sign the declaration, in English, click here.
According to Nísia Trindade Lima, the emergence of new polio cases in different regions of the world shows something that the medical and scientific community has been warning about for years: the return of the disease in countries that had already eliminated it. “In order to fight this problem, a result of a global drop in vaccine cover rates, we are launching the 2022 Scientific Declaration on Polio”, highlights Fiocruz president. “In the last three decades, cases had dropped by 99.9%, and today very few parts of the world have pockets of transmission of the wild poliovirus. Working against the disease in these areas and avoiding its return in the rest of the world is the only way to eradicate it”.
She highlights that the declaration is open to signatures and relies on the adhesion of the civil society and of professionals of the sector.
“Overcoming remaining hurdles”
According to the international group, “the strategy aims to overcome remaining hurdles, strengthen health systems in affected countries, and deliver a polio-free world by 2026”. In the document, pediatricians, epidemiologists, and health workers reflect on the recent hurdles that underscore the urgent need to eradicate polio.
While emphasizing the fact that eradication is something “feasible, urgent, and necessary”, the group, made up of members of the scientific community, urges:
. Endemic country leaders to stay fully committed and accountable to stop transmission.
. Polio-affected country leaders to prioritize urgent, high-quality outbreak response, including expanded vaccination activities, intensified surveillance and needed security for vaccinators and support staff.
. GPEI (Global Polio Eradication Initiative) partners to commit to strengthening integration across polio vaccination, routine immunization, and other vital health initiatives in polio-affected communities.
. Partners and donors to fully fund the GPEI 2022-2026 Strategic Plan.
. Civil society and community leaders to enhance their advocacy engagements to continue to support efforts to end polio.
Reclaiming high vaccine coverage
The Declaration converges with the project Reclaiming High Vaccine Coverage, a campaign promoted by Fiocruz in Brazil by means of Bio-Manguinhos. The project aims to establish an interinstitutional collaboration network and to implement actions of strategic support to the National Immunizations Program (PNI) in order to revert the downward trajectory of vaccine coverage. The Foundation is also part of the Vacina Mais (“Vaccinate More”), coordinated by the PAHO/WHO, the National Health Council (CNS), the National Council of Health Secretaries (Conass) and the Council of Municipal Health Secretaries (Conasems).
President Nísia Trindade Lima therefore states that “the Scientific Declaration converges with these initiatives and aims to promote, at a global level, the dealing with the vaccination issue, for a world free from polio”.