The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health have stated that there is no vaccine-derived polio outbreak in Uganda contrary to recent reports by the UN reporter, an online publication.
In a joint statement issued last week, both the Health Ministry and WHO dismissed claims of a vaccine-derived polio outbreak spreading in Uganda, saying that there has not been an outbreak of the disease since November 2010.
“Like any polio-free country, Uganda maintains a high routine immunisation and sensitive surveillance against importations and against vaccine-derived virus until polio is completely eradicated,” the joint statement reads in part.
However, the statement indicates that neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo has reported cases of Vaccine Derived Polio outbreak near Uganda’s border.
In an interview on Sunday, Dr Bernard Opar, the Manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (UNEPI) said that the Ministry of Health has put in place a strong surveillance system to keep away the vaccine-derived Polio strain.
“In Congo, in Ituri region, there are cases of vaccine derived polio virus but we do not have it here in Uganda and that why we are keen on putting in place a strong surveillance system to keep it away,” Dr Opar said.
He said that Uganda has not received any laboratory confirmation of any caccine-derived polio outbreak in the past
According to WHO, Vaccine-derived polio viruses (VDPVs) are strains which emerge after prolonged multiplication of attenuated strains of the virus contained in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) in the guts of children with immunodeficiency or in populations with very low immunity.
“After prolonged multiplication, this vaccine virus derived strain changes and reverts to a form that can cause paralysis in humans,” the statement says.
According to WHO, low coverage of polio vaccine under routine immunisation is the single most important factor that leads to emergence of the strains of poliovirus.
Dr Opar said the Oral Polio Vaccine is extremely safe and effective in protecting children against life-long polio paralysis.
“OPV has been the vaccine of choice for over 195 countries, Uganda inclusive, that have successfully eradicated polio. It remains the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) recommended vaccine of choice to finish global eradication,” he said.
As part of the polio endgame strategy, countries around the world, including Uganda, according to WHO have switched from trivalent to bivalent OPV, which reduces the risk of VDPV and introduced at least one dose of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) in the routine immunisation programme.