The scientific community is making great strides to come up with a vaccine against COVID-19. To this is added that, as planned, the World Health Organization (WHO) will approve an emergency vaccine against a type of polio, which spreads in the southern hemisphere, before the end of the year.
According to research published on Thursday, October 29 by the scientific journal Nature, this definitive step is closer and, if it is fulfilled, it will be the first time WHO has directed an unlicensed vaccine or drug through its emergency listing process.
The wild poliovirus, better known by the name of polio, was officially declared “eradicated” from the African continent by the WHO recently, after four consecutive years without confirmed cases and massive vaccination efforts in children.
A triumph considered almost global. In fact, in only two nations in Asia (Afghanistan Y Pakistan) still report infections. However, a naturally-occurring version of the weakened polio virus, which is used in vaccination, is in full growth.
Over the past month, the WHO admitted the link between an oral vaccine and the new polio outbreak in Sudan, through a statement posted on its website. Now the incidence of the so-called circulating poliovirus, derived from the vaccine (cVDPV), registers an increase.
This year there are more than 460 cases of vaccine-derived polio worldwide. “Millions of people potentially do not have immunity to the virus derived from the vaccine and that is why we are very concerned”says Kathleen O’Reilly, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who models polio infections.
Given this, the independent scientific advisers of the WHO evaluate the design of a vaccine specifically targeted to protect against cVDPV, after a decade of testing to ensure its safety and efficacy. However, it is not yet licensed and needs to undergo further testing.
WHO is in the final stages of giving its go-ahead through the so-called emergency use list, a procedure created during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and which the health agency is preparing for use with vaccines. against COVID-19.
On October 9, Alejandro Cravioto, president of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization of the WHO, confirms to Nature that it is the first vaccine to be considered on the emergency use list.
“It will be a very good exercise for us to see (how) this works, because probably some of the COVID-19 vaccines will have to be licensed for use in the same way.”, stresses.
It is an initiative, coordinated by the World Health Organization and international donors, which has also been received with skepticism by some scientists, such as Abdhalah Ziraba, epidemiologist at the Center for African Health and Population Research in Nairobi, Kenya. .
In his opinion, this type of mechanism should be applied only in extreme cases. “It makes sense where you don’t have any tools in your arsenal, like with Ebola or COVID. But polio and COVID are light years apart in terms of what constitutes an emergency, ”he says.
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