One of the biggest challenges facing world health organisations has been how to phase out the use of oral polio vaccines.
Oral vaccines have done a good job in helping to tackle polio in many countries. In Afghanistan and in Pakistan there have only been six and four cases respectfully, this year. But the virus has still not been eradicated.
One drawback of using the oral vaccine is that it contains live viruses. Live viruses can spread and on rare occasions can regain the power to paralyse. Therefore, whilst the oral vaccine is still being used in some countries, the world can never be free of polio.
In June, the Board at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance approved a new vaccine. This vaccine will be a combination product that includes inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). In other words there will be no live viruses, which have caused the problems of the past with the oral vaccines.
This will be the first time Gavi has offered countries the opportunity to buy polio vaccine in a combination format. The new vaccine is a six-in-one vaccine to protect children against hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and all three types of polioviruses.
It is hoped the vaccine will start to become available to countries that choose to use it as early as next year.
One important advantage of using this vaccine is it will help to ensure countries don’t stop vaccinating against polio too quickly once they have eradicated polio because it is built in to the vaccination programme. The vaccine would be given in three doses early in life (at six, 10, and 14 weeks) with a booster given at some point between the child’s first and second birthday.
The UK has used IPV exclusively since 2004.
PHOTO: By Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash