The Director general, World Health Organisation, Tedros Ghebreyesus, on Friday said the battle against the eradication of the child killer disease is being suspended because of the increasing transmission of COVID-19 around the world.
Mr Ghebreyesus said this would definitely have a negative impact on polio eradication as cases might continue spreading in countries where the disease has not been eradicated.
He said in order to reduce the risk of increasing transmission of COVID-19, the polio oversight board has made the “hard decision” to suspend house-to-house vaccination campaigns knowing that it will lead to an increase in polio cases.
“To reduce this risk, we will support countries to maintain essential immunization for all vaccine preventable diseases,” he said.
As at time of reporting, only two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – have not successfully interrupted the transmission of wild polio virus.
Nigeria which used to be the third country in that group, last year celebrated three years without reporting a single case of wild polio virus in the country.
With this feat, it was expected that Nigeria and the WHO African region will be declared polio free by the middle of this year.
Also, the decision of the polio body to suspend vaccination will have a negative impact on many countries such as Nigeria where a new type of polio known as the vaccine derived polio is beginning to thrive.
As of last year, new countries which had once eradicated polio – Malaysia, the Philippines – reported the resurgence of vaccine derived polio. This led to the call for intensive vaccination campaign to stop the transmission of the virus.
Mr Ghebreyesus said many health workers involved in polio vaccination are now supporting the COVID-19 response.