The first round of the polio vaccination campaign ended last May 28 in the regions of Adamaoua, East, North, and Far North of Cameroon. This campaign is part of a multinational initiative launched on May 26 simultaneously in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. The initiative is set to expand this week to the Central African Republic (CAR), as authorities in these four countries collaborate to vaccinate nearly 21 million children under the age of 5.
The office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Cameroon stated on its social media pages that this is "the largest polio vaccination campaign conducted in Africa since 2020." The initiative aims to address vaccination gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and provide vital protection against the risk of irreversible paralysis caused by polio to millions of children. It comes after 14 cases of poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) were reported in Niger, Chad, and CAR this year. No cases have been reported in Cameroon since the beginning of 2023 but the country is already working on a response plan. In this country, the aim is to vaccinate about 3.5 million children.
"The synchronization of the campaign will ensure the simultaneous administration of the vaccine to a large group of children in the four countries, strengthening polio immunity across an extensive geographical area," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. According to the WHO, the Lake Chad region, which includes three of the four targeted countries in this campaign, has one of the highest proportions globally of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children referred to as "zero-dose" children. Despite the efforts made by these countries, including Cameroon, to curb the virus's spread, enhance children's immunity, and maintain their poliovirus-free status, the poliovirus type 2 variant, which is the most common form of the disease, continues to circulate.
"Governments in all countries have continued to improve the quality of vaccination operations, particularly through the large-scale implementation of additional vaccination campaigns. These interventions aim to reduce residual risks for all forms of poliovirus while intensifying routine vaccination in countries," stated the WHO. A second round of the polio vaccination campaign is scheduled from June 16 to 18.