New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday said its member countries in southeast Asia have switched to bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV), a new vaccine which protects against the wild poliovirus strains.
Till now the countries were using trivalent oral polio vaccine (tOPV), and, according to WHO, implementing bOPV was a monumental change in vaccination that will bring the world closer to eradicating polio.
“The vaccine switch removing ‘type 2’ component of the oral polio vaccine follows global certification of eradication of type 2 wild poliovirus last year. The switch aims at reducing the rare risk of children getting paralysis by oral polio vaccine,” said Poonam Singh Khetrapal, regional director WHO southeast Asia.
“The switch, complemented with introduction of injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), will boost efforts to protect children against polio until the crippling disease is eradicated globally,” WHO said.
The region was certified polio-free in March 2014 and continues to maintain the status despite the risk of importation from the polio-endemic countries.
WHO said efforts were ongoing to protect children with polio vaccine, increase routine immunisation coverage, focus on the most vulnerable and hard to reach population and step-up vigil against poliovirus importation.
Terming the switch to the new vaccine an achievement, Khetrapal said: “Southeast Asian countries made extensive preparations, meticulously planned and implemented the switch in the childhood immunisation programme which reaches out to an estimated 37 million children in the 11 countries annually.”
WHO’s southeast Asia region comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.