WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) – Health authorities from across the Americas, including the Caribbean, have passed a resolution prioritising polio mitigation plans amid concerns about declining levels of polio vaccination and surveillance across the region.
This comes amidst the recent confirmation of the circulation of the poliovirus in the state of New York.
The officials adopted the resolution at the 30th Pan American Sanitary Conference that ends in the US on Friday.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said the plans include actions to increase vaccination and surveillance and to ensure adequate preparedness for a possible outbreak.
The document was adopted unanimously by delegates, which also included regional health ministers and other stakeholders, who were during the conference, deciding on public health priorities and responses to current health challenges.
PAHO said the resolution called on countries to engage civil society, community leaders, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, academic institutions and other stakeholders “to advance and work in a coordinated manner to keep the region polio-free.”
Countries asked PAHO – as the health agency for the Americas and World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the region – “to provide technical cooperation and promote collaboration among member states in the development, implementation and monitoring of polio risk mitigation and preparedness plans.
“Countries were also requested to report to PAHO the progress made as well as the challenges faced in the implementation of efforts to curb polio in the region.”
PAHO said polio, which can spread quickly among communities with insufficient vaccination coverage, is not treatable but fully preventable with vaccines.
“Yet, vaccination coverage has fallen below 80 per cent in nearly all countries of the Americas in the past years, and 12 countries in the region are at very high or high risk of experiencing an outbreak,” PAHO said, adding that the recommended vaccination coverage to prevent the reintroduction of the virus is 95 per cent.
Prior to the confirmation of vaccine-derived polio circulation in the state of New York, PAHO said it had issued an alert to member states to remain vigilant and to take measures to proactively reach out to unvaccinated populations, as well as to increase the surveillance of acute face paralysis – an indicator of the circulation of polio.