Two-day-old Zwelemvelo Kaulela recently became the first baby at Netcare Cuyler Hospital in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, to receive the new oral polio vaccine (OPV), in response to a new phase in the global effort to eradicate polio.
Maternity unit manager, Sister Riana Else, administered the new bivalent OPV (bOPV) to Zwelemvelo as part of the global switch from the vaccine’s predecessor, the trivalent OPV (tOPV).
“As part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013 - 2018, all countries using OPVs must switch to the new formulation in a coordinated manner within a two-week timeframe,” Sister Else explains.
According to WHO, the old tOPV differs from the new formulation in that it contained the type 2 poliovirus strain. The last confirmed case of this strain was seen in 1999, and it is therefore no longer necessary to include it in the vaccination.
The OPV, which is a “live” attenuated vaccine, may on extremely rare occasions cause vaccine-associated paralytic polio. It is for this reason that OPV will eventually be phased out entirely in favour of inactivated poliovirus vaccines, which do not carry this risk.
Sister Riana Else, Maternity unit manager at Netcare Cuyler Hospital in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, administers the new bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) to two-day-old Zwelemvelo Kaulela, who was the first baby at the hospital to receive the new bOPV.
Sister Else emphasises the importance of every child being vaccinated against polio: “The risk of your child contracting polio if they are not immunised far outweighs the risks associated with the vaccine; even more so with the advent of the new bOPV,” she observes.
“We all have a role to play in eradicating polio through ensuring our children are vaccinated, thereby reducing the chances of the poliovirus re-emerging in our communities.”
Netcare Cuyler Hospital general manager, Walter Kurten, says that the new vaccine, which Baby Kaulela received, was a significant step forward in the fight against the infectious viral disease. “In the past few decades, tremendous strides have been made in stemming the tide of polio, with the WHO reporting a 99% reduction in its prevalence since 1988.”
“As Netcare Cuyler Hospital, we are proud to be playing our role in the international efforts to eradicate polio, and supporting the efforts of the South African Department of Health, which has led our country’s response to tackling this global problem.”
Polio is highly infectious and usually affects young children. The disease is contracted through the mouth, commonly under unsanitary conditions. In cases where the polio virus attacks the nervous system, it typically leads to paralysis or weakness, which is often permanent.
According to the WHO, one in every 200 infections results in irreversible paralysis, most often affecting the legs. The paralysis may also lead to breathing disorders, which in turn may cause death. Highly acute cases of infection may result in total paralysis within hours.
“We hope that one day, when Zwelemvelo has children and grandchildren of his own, he will be able to tell them how he was inoculated against a disease called polio and how it was successfully eradicated around the world through the current global effort,” Kurten concluded.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Cuyler Hospital
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Devereaux Morkel
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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