Over the past two decades, global incidences of polio decreased from 350,000 cases in 1988 to only 400 cases last year; a reduction of roughly 99 percent. This was due largely to a multibillion dollar campaign to immunize the global population at risk.

Though this is a nearly victorious feat, polio cases remain endemic in Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Earlier this year in February, Dr. Kaneshka Baktash, the spokesman for the Afghan public health ministry, announced that a 3-year-old girl was diagnosed with the virus in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. Until this diagnosis, the city had been free of the virus for 12 years.

This recent diagnosis catalyzed immediate mass oral vaccination efforts to children in Kabul itself as well as at those entering the city. UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Afghan Ministry of Public Health are working together to administer the treatments in as wide a breadth as possible to all children in the vicinity under the age of 10; it is now estimated that 700 to 800 Afghani children are currently receiving polio vaccinations each day. They are administered primarily through door-to-door visits as well as vehicle checkpoints.

The polio vaccination, which is designed to prohibit paralysis, is kept between two and eight degrees Celsius, and is administered orally or injected by needle into children’s fingertips. After two drops of the vaccination, the administrators mark the children’s fingers to indicate that they have received treatment.

The populace is reportedly more receptive to these polio vaccines than they have been in the past due to increased communication and education about the virus and its preventative necessity. Dr. Gholam Siddiqi of the WHO Polio Program described that as vaccination teams move from house to house, if parents refuse to vaccinate their children, the officials inform their respective supervisors who then return to those houses to further explain the vaccination’s benefits.

These successful vaccinations, combined with polio awareness efforts, are working to stop the virus in its tracks.

— Arielle Swett

Sources: The Guardian, UNICEF
Photo: News Hopper