Cameroon will organize the first round of the Local Immunization Days in response to the polio epidemic from September 22 to 24, 2023. The campaign will be held in six regions, namely the Centre, Littoral, North-West, West, South and South-West. It will ultimately target 2,893,131 children aged 0 to 5, "including refugees, nomads, and other special populations," according to the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). Schools, households, hospitals, and other public places will serve as vaccination sites for this campaign, according to the same source.
Although Cameroon was certified free of wild poliovirus (WPV) - the pathogenic agent of polio - in 2020, other forms of poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) derived from a vaccine strain still circulate in the country, mainly in areas where children receive little or no immunization. As the virus is also present in several neighboring countries, including Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Niger, the risk of importation cannot be ruled out, as Cameroon is a host country, particularly in its border areas.
The country is therefore stepping up its vaccination campaigns, especially as there is no cure for polio, which can only be prevented by vaccination, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Since its certification, Cameroon has stepped up its efforts to eradicate this highly contagious viral disease, which mainly affects children under the age of 5 and can lead to paralysis or even death in a matter of hours. Health authorities report that Cameroon has not stopped epidemiological surveillance since achieving polio-free status.
"Health specialists are regularly deployed for environmental surveillance. Samples are taken in the wild to detect threats to our health. This is how the poliovirus was detected in Yaounde," according to the EPI. Environmental polio surveillance involves regular collection of wastewater to assess the risk of contamination and spread of the disease in living environments. In 2021, Cameroon set up a coordination center for the poliovirus response, to maintain its polio-free status and end the circulation of all forms of polio in the country.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem