Multiple cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus have been detected by health officials in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The term “vaccine-derived poliovirus” can be interpreted exactly how it reads: poliovirus coming from the vaccine, itself. This is not the same as wild polio which occurs in nature.

Wild poliovirus type 1 remains in only two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2021, there were six reported cases of wild polio and 698 cases of vaccine-derived polio. Vaccine-derived polio is commonly referred to as the generic term “polio” which can be confusing when determining how a polio outbreak originated. Most current outbreaks are caused by a weakened strain of poliovirus found in the oral polio vaccine.

According to the WHO, the detection of vaccine-derived polio in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo has been declared a national public health emergency. Cases have been confirmed in three children, and the presence of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus has been detected in samples of wastewater.

“While detection of these outbreaks is a tragedy for the family and communities affected, it is not unexpected with wider use of the vaccine,” said the GPEI, an alliance of the WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other worldwide health agencies.

Burundi plans to carry out a polio vaccination campaign in the near future for all eligible children ages seven and under with help from the WHO and GPEI, the WHO stated. Essentially, there is a call to vaccinate tens of thousands of children to curb a polio outbreak which was caused by the vaccine, itself.

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