Oversight body affirms China’s polio-free status
BEIJING, 29 November 2012 - An independent oversight body meeting here convened by WHO has confirmed China's polio-free status following China's successful control of the outbreak that occurred last year in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. With this confirmation China and the whole Western Pacific Region retains its polio-free certification status.
“We are here again after viruses came over the mountains from Pakistan into Xinjiang Province in 2011, and our task is to assess the impact of that importation on the Region’s overall polio-free status and China’s response,” said Prof Anthony Adams, Chairman of the Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication. “I want to express our admiration for the way China had responded to this importation and recommended that it be an example to the rest of the world on how to respond to similar emergencies.”
"The 2011 outbreak, which China quickly stopped with technical assistance from WHO, UNICEF and other partners, underscores that no place is safe until the crippling and fatal disease is globally eradicated," said Dr Michael O'Leary, WHO Representative in China.
China demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility to spare the international community from contagion. There was great urgency to not allow the virus to spread from Xinjiang to other parts of China and neighboring countries.
According to Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to China, “An impressive feature of the response was the wide array of stakeholders, including the Bureau of Religious Affairs, the Propaganda, Radio and Television Bureau, local media, village and religious leaders, coordinated by the Ministry of Health with UNICEF and WHO support, to reach the most vulnerable families and children.”
Altogether, five large-scale immunization campaigns were conducted in Xinjiang between September 2011 and April 2012. More than 43 million doses of polio vaccine were administered to children and adults under 40 years of age. The Government of China allocated over 340 million RMB (approximately US$55 million) to the response effort; with resources provided by different levels of government. To ensure that a similar situation does not reoccur, new strategies and capacities developed during the outbreak will continue to be employed in routine immunization work.
WHO, UNICEF and other partners help Member States remain polio-free by supporting efforts to strengthen poliovirus surveillance and by assisting with coordinating and enhancing immunization systems and community responses. The only way to prevent polio is by immunization, so maintaining high vaccination coverage is pivotal.
China has achieved two other significant public health milestones this year. In June 2012 the country was officially verified as having reached the regional hepatitis B control goal of reducing chronic hepatitis B infection in young children from over 7% to less than 1% today. Last month WHO validated that China had achieved maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination.
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