The first case of polio in Papua-New Guinea in more than 20 years was confirmed this week.
In 2018 so far, only 10 people have been reported with vaccine-derived polio. The latest case is a 6-year old boy from Lae, in Northern Papua-New Guinea.
“We are saddened to see the announcement of this case of polio in PNG, said Maree Nutt, CEO RESULTS Australia.
“Polio champions around the world had hoped that 2018 would be the year we finally eradicated polio and this new case is obviously devastating for the child involved and PNG.”
Polio vaccination rates are relatively low in Papua-New Guinea. In Morobe Province, where the child diagnosed with polio lives, the polio vaccination rate is 61%, the health system in Papua-New Guinea has a low level of resources and service quality is inconsistent across the country.
“Polio is a disease of poverty, the quality of sanitation and hygiene in the region is also low, increasing the risk of polio transmission,” explains Ms Nutt.
The response the Papua-New Guinea Government is providing with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) involves supplementary polio vaccination to children in Morobe and neighbouring provinces. It also involves increased surveillance to determine if any other children in the region may have polio.
“We now need to work together to help PNG ensure that the polio vaccine reaches all children in PNG so that the disease does not take hold again, ” adds Ms Nutt.
The Government of Papua-New Guinea and WHO are working on a full response strategy and Budget for the response, which would then influence what contributions from other supporters, such as the Australian Aid program and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, could make to the strategy. Already, the Papua-New Guinea Government has declared the examples of vaccine-derived polio a National Health Emergency, and has allocated $2.75 million to respond to the emergency.
“While PNG is already the largest recipient of Australian aid, with our aid budget at its lowest level on record, we may need to provide additional assistance to help the PNG Government prevent a resurgence of polio.”
“We need to improve the capacity of the Papua-New Guinea health system to provide vaccinations and other services, especially in remote areas, which is a shared responsibility of the Papua-New Guinea Government and international supporters such as the Australian Government and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.”