Panic appeared to have rented the air as the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency revealed that Nigeria has recorded 395 cases of the Circulating Mutant Poliovirus Type 2 across 27 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The agency said the situation was aggravated by the immunity gaps in children.
In a statement signed by its Executive Director, Faisal Shuaib, NPHCDA said that the suspension of immunization programmes due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the immunity gaps that gave birth to the new outbreaks.
The statement reads in part: “We currently have 395 cases of Circulating Mutant Poliovirus Type 2 (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 which spanned three years of no detection of WPV. To date, there has been no case of WPV anywhere in the country.
“cMPV2 outbreaks are caused by immunity gaps in children due to several reasons, including low routine immunization coverage, and missing children during immunization campaigns. The suspension of several polio campaigns and other health programmes in 2020, as well as disruptions to routine immunization 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.
“The viruses thrive in areas with poor sanitation, open defecation, and inadequate access to clean drinking water. These have allowed the virus to be easily transmitted from one person to another through contaminated water and poor sewage disposal. Malnutrition occasioned by increasing poverty is also a predisposing factor in exposed children. These non-wild polioviruses 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.”
The agency added that it was “working with our Donors and Development Partners, Nigeria has already acquired new tools and resources to ensure the outbreaks are contained through very robust outbreak responses using the novel Oral Polio Vaccine which has been shown to be effective in halting the spread of the cMPV2. All 36 States and FCT have completed at least one nOPV2 Outbreak Response.
“Several other rounds of the OBR, as well as other campaigns to improve the mucosal immunity of children aged 0-5 years old using Injectable Polio Vaccine, have also been planned for this year. Efforts are also being ramped up to increase routine immunization coverage beyond pre-COVID values.”