Injectable anti-polio drug to be rolled out next month

Kenyan children will from next month benefit from an extra dose of injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).

The Ministry of Health has received about 800,000 doses of the vaccine for the exercise, through Gavi, the global vaccine alliance.

“By introducing this vaccine into routine immunisation programmes and using it together with the oral vaccine, children will be better protected from polio and at the same time we will be able to eradicate the remaining strains of wild polio virus,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Health.

But immunisation experts are worried that some countries that had been scheduled to introduce the vaccine before the end of year, may not meet the World Health Assembly’s resolution target. Kenya is the only country in the region that has announced that it is ready to introduce the vaccine as scheduled.

The latest World Health Organisation report on IPV notes that Uganda is expected to roll out the vaccine by January 2016 while Rwanda and Tanzania will follow suit after April 2016.

Dr Colins Tabu, head of the immunisation department at Kenya’s Ministry of Health said that the IPV, which consists of inactivated strains of all the three polio types — sub-clinical (does not affect the brain and spinal cord) non-paralytic (affects nervous system but does not result in paralysis) and paralytic (the most serious form which produces full or partial paralysis in the patient) — will be used together with the oral vaccine to boost immunity.

“We have seen that when used in conjunction with oral polio vaccine (OPV), IPV can boost mucosal immunity more effectively than when OPV is used alone,” said Dr Tabu. “The OPV alone provides about 80 per cent protection. But when we introduce the IPV, the immunity shoots to over 95 per cent.”

Reports show that globally, the incidences of polio reduced from more than 350,000 on average per year to 416 in 2013.

No wild poliovirus cases have been reported this year in the region. Even so, the inactivated polio vaccine is being introduced to further increase immunity among populations as the world fights to eradicate polio by 2018.

“We hope that by 2018 we shall be able to stop administering the oral polio vaccine and by 2020, stop the IPV. Thereafter, we will not be administering any polio vaccine,” said Dr Tabu.

“We are not just offering protection against the disease but also striving to boost population immunity to a level where the virus no longer circulates.”