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Nature Reports On Efforts To Vaccinate Nigeria’s Nomadic Communities Against Polio

“A 25-year, $10 billion global effort has taken the number of polio cases from hundreds of thousands per year to just hundreds, but it is now struggling to stamp the virus out of its final strongholds in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, where transmission has never been interrupted,” Nature reports. “Of these, Nigeria was the only one to see an increase in cases from 2011 to 2012, and public health experts worry that the virus’s recalcitrance here will prevent global eradication, and eventually lead to a wider resurgence of the disease,” according to the magazine, which highlights a number of barriers to polio eradication in the country, including a lack of “a working public health care system” and political will, religious opposition, and distrust of the government.

“But epidemiologists have identified one barrier that might be overcome cheaply and safely: locating and counting remote populations, including the nomadic livestock herders who drift through the region with the changing seasons,” Nature writes, noting, “More than one-third of confirmed polio cases in 2012 were among children who lived in close proximity to nomadic communities.” The magazine highlights “the National Stop Transmission of Polio (N-STOP) program, organized through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and supported by the Nigerian government,” which in June 2012 “started a census of Fulani nomads and other hard-to-reach populations, as part of a global emergency action plan against polio.” The magazine provides a history of the program, discusses ongoing obstacles to eradication and writes, “Counting and vaccinating nomads will not solve all Nigeria’s polio troubles, but it is easier to achieve than tackling domestic terrorism, vaccine refusal and other challenges” (Callaway, 4/17).

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