Declaration Of Africa’s Elimination Of Wild Poliovirus Is Premature, Researcher Argues
UNDARK: Opinion: Why It’s Premature to Declare Africa Free of Wild Polio
Jordan Schermerhorn, researcher working on infectious diseases in fragile states and conflict settings throughout sub-Saharan Africa
“…[G]iven the extreme inaccessibility caused by conflict, low vaccination rates, and logistical constraints that limit disease surveillance in many parts of rural Africa — a situation only made worse by Covid-19 — the declaration that wild poliovirus has been eliminated from the continent is premature. The rush to declare victory reflects the chasm between high-level rhetoric and the day-to-day reality of life in Nigeria. … [E]radication programs inherently operate on the fringes of detection capacity, and northeast Nigeria poses unique challenges. … Despite these red flags, declarations of success have continued, ensuring that any future wild polio cases in Nigeria — or elsewhere in Africa — will be framed as a setback at best, or hidden at worst. A four-year absence of reported polio cases from Borno [in northeast Nigeria] is insufficient evidence that wild poliovirus has been eliminated in Africa. Ignoring this reality may prove a shortsighted misstep for polio eradication: Any complacency in prevention efforts could allow the disease to come roaring back out of hiding. Senior leaders in the effort should not be so easily tempted by the lure of prematurely declaring victory” (10/8).