Polio, a threat to Latin America in the post-coronavirus world

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Due to the quarantines implemented this year, millions of children did not receive the mandatory vaccines. Other diseases that had been eradicated reappear.

The possible resurgence of diseases almost eradicated in Latin America, such as polio, appears as one of the worst threats in the post-COVID-19 world. This is the case in Peru, where thousands of minors have not received the mandatory vaccinations due to the limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The alert was launched by health authorities, laboratories and specialists, just one year after the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the elimination in America of this incurable disease, but “preventable with vaccination.”

“Because of the lack of vaccination, the risk of the re-emergence of this disease is increased, which affects the nervous system and can cause serious consequences such as paralysis, even death; the main risk group is children under 5 years old,” he explained the EFE agency the director of the National Association of Pharmaceutical Laboratories (Alafarpe) of Peru, Ángela Flores.

The Peruvian Ministry of Health reported that until October 13 there was an increase in polio cases globally, since 129 reports of wild poliovirus (WPV1) and 429 of poliovirus derived from circulating vaccine (cVDPV) were registered, when last year these were 88 and 103, respectively.

Since the mid-1980s, vaccination has made it possible to reduce this disease by more than 80% in the world and, in the case of Peru, the last polio registration dates from 1991 and the certification as free of wild poliovirus arrived in 1994.

However, this year’s national vaccination campaign was seriously affected by the arrival of covid-19, which led to concentrating efforts on fighting the epidemic and later generated fear among citizens of going to medical centers.

In this regard, Dr. Raúl Urquizo, former dean of the Lima Medical College, assured EFE that before the pandemic his country had a vaccination coverage of over 90%, but with quarantine this figure dropped to 22%.

“The Ministry of Health has made a strong campaign in recent weeks and we are around 43% at the national level; there are localities with a deficit of more than 60%, the majority. So there is a concern,” said this pediatric neonatologist.

In this context, Angela Flores called on the Peruvian authorities “not to lower their guard” since, as she said, the situation not only occurs with this type of pathology “but with others that can be prevented with adequate vaccination and immunization programs.” .

The representative of Alafarpe remarked that although the vaccination programs are being reactivated “it is not possible” that at this time almost 50% of Peruvian children who have not yet been vaccinated “may be exposed as a result of the pandemic.

Urquizo said that his country faces “a serious risk that diseases that had already been eradicated such as measles and polio can reappear, because the population is afraid to go to health facilities “.

This threat will only pass when the “optimal levels” of vaccination of around 95% can be recovered, for which “communication campaigns” should be carried out to encourage the population to return to health centers, he said.

This weekend, the Health Ministry urged parents to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases, such as polio, and warned that cases have doubled “globally as a result of the COVID pandemic. -19 “.

“This unusual increase in the number of susceptible people due to not having been vaccinated during the last six months of the active phase of the pandemic, determines a danger of the occurrence of cases and outbreaks of diseases that no longer circulate in our country,” warned the chief of the Directorate of Immunizations, María Ticona.

After the restrictive measures dictated since the pandemic arrived in Peru, at the beginning of last March, the country’s health facilities were reactivated since June to vaccinate children under 5 years of age, adolescents, adults and the elderly.

Urquizo explained that specialists hope that this year 70% of vaccination will be achieved, although currently in Lima only 37.6% have been immunized against polio, and in no other region of the country is it reached 50%.


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