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World Polio Day: The Importance of Vaccination

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 10/26/2020 - 12:17

Oct.24 is World Polio Day, marked to raise awareness on vaccination against the infectious disease that mostly affects children under the age of five. According to End Polio, poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease that is transmitted through contaminated water, food or infected feces. There is no cure for polio but there is an effective vaccine to prevent it.

Since 1988, the world is 99.9 percent polio-free. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the remaining countries suffering from it. World Polio Day highlights global efforts toward a polio-free world and honors those who have been at the frontline working towards eradicating this disease. Sanofi is one of the key actors in this fight. Its vaccine has greatly contributed to polio’s management and eradication and the company’s role in vaccine delivery has been critical to prevent an outbreak.

MBN spoke with Luz Ubiarco, Scientific Medical Liaison Manager of Sanofi, to learn about how the company keeps working on preventing polio. “Up to date, Sanofi is applying the hexavalent vaccine that protects children from polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, as well as invasive diseases due to haemophiles influenza type B and hepatitis B.” Ubiarco explained that this innovative development has been in Mexico since 2018, which consists of three doses administered at month two, four and six, followed by a reinforcement in month 18 of the child’s life.

According to Ubiarco, Mexico has a high vaccination program and follow up, which means Sanofi has not had any issue with the dose scheme of this vaccine. “The reinforcement could be the hardest part. However, Mexico’s figures regarding vaccine follow up are positive. This year, however, we did notice a decrease due to the limitations brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ubiarco encourages families and governments to prioritize comprehensive vaccination at all times and especially during the current health emergency. “WHO and the CDC have said that quarantine should not be prioritized over vaccination programs,” she says. “If we had to prioritize vaccines, due to the seasons, the influenza and pneumococcus vaccines are important, in addition to vaccines for other diseases that can cause outbreaks such as measles, polio and diphtheria.” According to Ubiarco, Mexico has been polio-free for 29 years thanks to a correct vaccine application and follow up, accessible to users in the public and private healthcare sector.

But, why is the world still focusing on polio? “Polio is a disease that can be devastating within a couple hours and one in every 200 patients can develop irreversible paralysis,” explains Ubicarco. “Thanks to the polio vaccine, up to date, 19 million people that could have suffered from paralysis have avoided it and 1.5 million people that could have died from polio are alive.”

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst