Strengthening Routine Vaccination and Fighting Polio Outbreak in Madagascar: GPEI Delegation’s Visit Highlights Progress and Challenges

2024-04-24 20:26:06

Antananarivo, 24 April 2024 – A high-level delegation from the Global Polio Elimination Initiative (GPEI) is in Madagascar to help the country strengthen routine vaccination while fighting a polio outbreak in the country.

Over the next three days, the delegation will meet with the President of Madagascar, the First Lady, the Minister of Public Health and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to strengthen cooperation between the government and partners, while taking advantage of the “big catch-up” to fill the vaccination gaps in Madagascar. Partners will also discuss how best to build on the government’s successes in strengthening routine vaccination and sustaining progress in the fight against polio in Madagascar.

The team is composed of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Chairman of the Polio Surveillance Board, Dr Chris Elias, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Etleva Kadilli, Director of Health Systems Strengthening and Immunization at The Gavi Secretariat in Geneva, Alex de Jonquieres, and the French Ambassador to Madagascar, Arnaud Guillois.

“We are here not only to discuss the way forward, but also to congratulate national health authorities for their personal commitment as champions of vaccination. Their contributions have paved the way to reach all children, and it is therefore important that we continue to support and encourage Madagascar in its efforts to further improve vaccination coverage and end polio transmission,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.

Madagascar was certified as a country free of indigenous wild poliovirus in June 2018, but it is now classified by the International Health Regulations (IHR) as a state infected with the circulating variant of poliovirus type 1 at risk of international spread, and therefore placed under temporary recommendations since January 2023.

Since September 2020, the country has faced an increase in polio cases. A total of 287 cases have been confirmed (as of November 2023), including 45 paralytic cases and 198 detections in sewage samples. Two paralytic cases have been reported in adults (aged 32 and 29) since 28 January 2023. The adult cases therefore place the country in a unique position that has required innovative responses. Four large-scale vaccination campaigns were carried out in 2023. The first cycle carried out from 16 to 19 May 2023 made it possible to vaccinate more than 5,000,000 (99.8%) children under the age of 5. As a result, no new cases of polio have been reported in Madagascar in the past six months. In addition, simple hygiene practices, such as good sanitation and hand washing, can help reduce disease transmission.

“Too many children continue to be deprived of life-saving vaccines, and the longer we wait to reach and vaccinate them, the more vulnerable they become and the greater the risk of deadly outbreaks,” said Alex de Jonquieres, Director of Systems Strengthening for Gavi -vaccine alliance “By strengthening routine immunization and increasing vaccination coverage, we can ensure that the most marginalized communities are no longer left behind,” he added.

In order to meet this challenge and mobilize all social, economic, cultural and governmental sectors to strengthen routine vaccination, increase vaccination coverage, catch up on zero doses and under-vaccinated children, the visit will be characterized by a series of meetings with higher authorities. officials, technical and financial partners, humanitarian actors and the media.

The delegation will join HE President Rajoelina for the inauguration of a new vaccine storage center in the heart of Antananarivo, which was funded by Gavi. They will also launch the “Great Catch-up” under the patronage of HE the First Lady, as they mark African Immunization Week and the 50th anniversary of the Expanded Program on Immunization.

“By placing routine vaccination at the center of the country’s primary health care system, the Malagasy government will be able to stop poliovirus transmission and significantly improve declining routine vaccination rates. We stand ready to support the government to ensure that every child receives the life-saving vaccines they need to be protected against polio and other easily preventable diseases, says UNICEF’s Etleva Kadilli.

These moments will be dedicated to recognizing the continuous improvement in the quality of polio campaigns and the potential for its integration into activities aimed at strengthening vaccination coverage.

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