Before vaccinations were introduced, there were thousands of patients and hundreds of deaths each year in Germany alone. According to the World Health Organization, global vaccination campaigns that began in 1988 have so far saved about 20 million people from paralysis and one and a half million people. Meanwhile, vaccination rates are very low in many places.
Not only the United States was affected
It is not only the United States that is affected. In Israel, the pathogen was first detected in a four-year-old boy in Jerusalem at the beginning of March. Subsequently, more cases and polioviruses were found in the sewage of many cities in the country. In London, health authorities learned in June when polioviruses were repeatedly found in sewage samples. According to the government, tens of thousands of children are at risk there alone.
The pathogens detected in the three countries are not wild-type poliovirus, but viruses traced back to oral vaccination with weakened but live polio pathogens. It can be taken out by vaccination for up to six weeks, at first, infection via saliva and throat secretions is also possible. According to experts, other countries can also be affected.
Israel uses live oral vaccines (OPVs), but the US and UK do not. Inactivated vaccines (IPV) that do not contain any viable viruses have been used there for a long time – as in Germany since 1998 exclusively. The pathogens circulating in London and New York may have been first introduced by people who received the oral vaccination, which is still prevalent in their countries.
There is no cure for polio
The World Health Organization has now put the USA on the list of countries – currently about 30 – with vaccination-based polioviruses. “The United States is taking all appropriate measures to prevent new cases of paralysis,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. So far there is no cure for polio.
In Africa and Asia in particular, oral vaccination with live vaccines is still widely used. The very low risk of a case of polio vaccination is accepted in favor of mass vaccination of the population.
Also in the United States, following the outbreak of polio in New York, the reintroduction of oral vaccination is now being considered. There is now a new live vaccine with a virus that also does not reproduce and cannot be excreted for a long time. “Since the outbreak in New York, we’ve decided we need to reconsider polio,” Oliver Brooks, chair of the CDC’s working group on the issue, told CNBC. “We just have to do it.”
In Germany, children are vaccinated from the age of two months, and according to RKI expert Diedrich, the vaccination rate is about 90 percent nationwide. “It is not enough,” she asserted. The rate is particularly low in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, for example. One problem in this country is that the dire consequences of polio on countless children have been lost in the collective memory – and it could happen again. “This can in no way be taken lightly.”
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