The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is thinking of countering the New York polio outbreak with the use of oral polio vaccines, which would become its first use in over two decades.
The first polio case in the U.S. in almost ten years occurred in New York in the summer when an unvaccinated adult was paralyzed in Rockland County. However, no cases have been reported after that.
Talking about the new and more stable vaccines with lowered mutation risk, Dr. Janell Routh, the domestic polio team lead at CDC said, “We are in discussions with our New York State and New York City colleagues about the use of nOPV. It will be a process. It’s not something that we can pull the trigger on and have it appear overnight. There will be lots of thought and discussion about the reintroduction of an oral polio vaccine into the United States.”
Drug regulators in the U.S. pulled the oral vaccine from the market back in 2000 due to it containing a live strain of the virus which was weak, but still presented a risk of mutating into an infectious form that could possibly paralyze unvaccinated people.
Scientists are of the view that this outbreak was caused by a vaccinated person with the live virus abroad. This is because the samples from the sewage are connected to previous samples from Jerusalem and London. However, the origin is unknown.
A work-group was set up by CDC that includes independent vaccine advisors to come about standards for when the vaccine is to be used against the current outbreak and the ones to possibly occur in the future. The workgroup chairperson said that coming back to polio was a need following the outbreak in New York.
The issue highlighted was that the currently used inactive vaccine is not effective when measured for its ability to stop the transmission of the virus, where the oral vaccine prevails. If the need for it is recognized, the U.S. will use the oral vaccine, which is deemed more stable and safe.
The oral vaccine was established to put a halt to polio outbreaks that were due to the less stable vaccine previously used. 21 countries have administered a total of 450 million doses globally. The WHO suggests counties shift to the oral vaccine if the inactive vaccine does not counter the outbreak.
According to the CDC, even one case of paralytic polio is considered to be a public health emergency. There are mostly no symptoms in people who catch the virus, which means when a person is paralyzed, it is a sign that the virus was silent in its spread.
Poliovirus has been detected in sewage by the New York State Department of Health which goes back to April, with the latest detection being in September. Detections in 70 samples were made in numerous counties in the New York City region, like Sullivan, Nassau, Rockland, Orange, Queens, and Kings.
It is worth mentioning that the nation was declared to be polio-free 43 years ago in 1979.