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WHO prequalifies new polio vaccine

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The World Health Organization has granted prequalification to the new oral poliovirus vaccine type 2, marking the first instance of such recognition for a vaccine under emergency use listing. 

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative announced over the weekend that this WHO prequalification will facilitate broader access to the vaccine, which has proven instrumental in controlling outbreaks associated with type 2 variant poliovirus.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a historic public health milestone, lauded the prequalification, emphasizing its significance in responding to critical health emergencies. 

He noted, “Novel oral polio vaccine type 2 has paved the way for other new vaccines, addressing crucial health challenges. Its utilization underscores the effectiveness of the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) mechanism in rapidly deploying new products where they are most needed.”

Bio Farma Indonesia, the vaccine’s manufacturer, and Indonesian authorities have granted it full licensure. 

The vaccine, developed by a global collaboration led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institute for Biological Standards and Controls in the UK, PATH, the University of California, San Francisco, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the US Food and Drug Administration, has undergone extensive clinical testing.

Given the simplicity of administration, storage, and transportation, the oral polio vaccine is frequently employed in campaigns in resource-limited nations. 

However, the attenuated virus in the oral vaccine can potentially revert to virulence, especially in areas with low vaccination rates.

According to GPEI, nOPV2 exhibits greater genetic stability than monovalent type 2 oral polio vaccine, while maintaining safety and efficacy. After three years of clinical use, estimates suggest that nOPV2 is 80% less likely to trigger new mutant polio epidemics.

Nigeria has played a crucial role in disseminating nOPV2, being among the nations most affected by cVDPV2 outbreaks. 

The vaccination efforts in Nigeria have resulted in an 85% reduction in infections over the past three years.

Globally, reported cases in 2023 totaled 325, a significant decline from the 689 cases reported in 2022.

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