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Britain is rolling out urgent polio vaccinations for all London-based children under 10 as a re-emergence of the virus in the UK, US and Israel has fueled fears of a larger outbreak. wide.
The vaccination campaign aims to provide a “high level of protection against paralysis” and limit the spread of the virus, British health authorities announced on Wednesday.
“All children aged 1 to 9 in London should receive a dose of polio vaccine now – whether it’s an extra booster dose or just to catch up on their routine vaccinations,” said epidemiologist Dr Vanessa Saliba consultant to the UK Health Security Agency, said.
“This will provide a high level of protection against paralysis. It can also help prevent the spread of the virus,” she added.
Parents and carers in affected areas will be contacted by their healthcare professional to schedule an appointment for their child to receive inactivated polio vaccine, with up to one million children expected to be offered the vaccine.
David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the rollout should serve as a “wake-up call” for those who are unvaccinated.
“This should wake us all up – the vaccine-derived polio virus is circulating in many countries around the world – including parts of the UK and the US,” he said.
“While not all children and adults infected with a vaccine-derived polio virus become paralyzed, those who have not been fully vaccinated are at risk of becoming paralyzed – and these are also the people who continue to facilitate transmission and outbreaks that are occurring in the UK,” he added.
It comes after an unvaccinated New York man was paralyzed last month after contracting the virus.
The city’s first known case in a decade has left officials warning that this may just be “the tip of the iceberg”, along with hundreds of other infections that can go unnoticed.
Poliomyelitis is a rare but highly infectious virus that can sometimes cause serious illness, such as paralysis, in people who are not fully immunized.
No cases of polio have been detected in the UK since it was eradicated in 2003 following an extensive vaccination campaign, and health officials say the risk for the majority of fully vaccinated people remains low.
However, the British authorities declared a national incident in June after traces of the virus were found in sewage samples from several London boroughs.
Routine sewage monitoring in the UK usually detects traces of the virus once or twice a year, usually from people who have been vaccinated abroad with the live oral polio vaccine, as opposed to the dead version used United Kingdom.
But since Feb. 2022, 116 samples of type 2 poliovirus were detected in samples from eight London boroughs in the north and east of the capital.
The UKHSA said genetic analysis of the samples suggests the spread has now gone “beyond a close network of a few individuals” and could spread within the community. While most of the samples detected are the safe vaccine form of polio, “a few” have mutated enough to be dangerous, he added.
Health officials are now stepping up nationwide sewage monitoring and investigating the link between the UK samples and recent cases detected in the US and Jerusalem, Israel.
“Further investigation is needed to fully understand how they are connected, but this shows that this virus has the potential to cause disease, especially in poorly vaccinated communities,” said Associate Professor Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly. in infectious disease statistics and expert in poliomyelitis eradication, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.