Polio Outbreak in Tajikistan
It is regret that we report on an outbreak of the vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) in Tajikistan. As of the date of reporting there have been four recorded cases among children with the first case occurring on 22nd November 2020 say the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Tajikistan is a Central Asian country with a population just below 10 million. A former state of the Soviet Union it became an independent sectarian state in 1991. Whilst reports are early it is possible that this could have been an indirect result of the global Covid-19 pandemic. In 2019 WHO and UNICEF estimated that there was a Polio immunisation coverage of 96% among children. However, in 2020 this is reported to of dropped to around 90%, an indication that this new outbreak is a direct result of this drop off.
In February, the country implemented a national vaccine catch up campaign to ensure that all children who had potentially missed the vaccine for the type 2 Polio virus we able to be vaccinated. On the 8th March the situation in Tajikistan was assessed by the WHO and the situation was declared a stage 2 emergency. This internal grading system by the WHO allows for emergency funding and support to be released to help combat the ongoing situation. WHO is further working closely in partnership with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and health authorities to prepare for a supplemental immunization campaign using the novel oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2) to interrupt transmission of the type 2 virus.
Whilst across the globe we hear stories of how one virus is impacting the lives of billions we hope that this is not news of it aiding in the return of one as equally deadly, Polio.