PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) said this Wednesday (21) that Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Peru are at very high risk of reintroduction of poliomyelitis, amid the drop in regional vaccination coverage against the disease for around 79%, the lowest since 1994.
This month, New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared an emergency in an attempt to accelerate efforts to vaccinate residents against polio after the virus was detected in sewage samples. Cases were also detected in London and Jerusalem.
Polio can cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented by a vaccine first made available in 1955. Although there is no known cure, three shots of the vaccine provide nearly 100% immunity.
Public health officials said hesitation over vaccines contributed to the drop in polio immunizations, while Covid-19 caused the worst disruption to routine vaccinations in a generation, according to the United Nations.
The disease terrorized parents across the world during the first half of the 20th century. Mainly affecting children under five, it is usually asymptomatic but can also cause symptoms such as fever and vomiting. About one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, and among these patients, up to 10% die.