World Health Organization (WHO) - Burundi

Burundi’s health authorities today launched the country’s first national polio vaccination campaign since 2011, targeting nearly 3 million children under seven years of age following the first alerts of circulating poliovirus type 2 in more than three decades.

Supported by World Health Organization and other Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, the country has prepared more than 3.7 million doses of nOPV2 vaccine for administration over the next four days. The action is in response to 13 detections of circulating variant poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) reported so far in 2023.

Three cases were confirmed in March, including a four-year-old boy in Isale district in western Burundi who had never been vaccinated against polio, and two other children who were his contacts. Additionally, five samples from environmental surveillance of wastewater confirmed the presence of circulating poliovirus type 2.

“The detection of the virus continues to constitute a national public health emergency, and subsequent vaccination rounds can be expected to follow in the coming months in order to protect Burundi’s children,” said Dr Sylvie Nzeyimana, Burundi’s Minister of Health.

WHO supports health authorities in reaching every last child with vaccination against preventable diseases. In Burundi WHO has supported the training of more than 12 000 vaccinators and conducted over 700 sessions for training of trainers at all levels, from community to national level.

Dr Désiré Nolna, Burundi’s country coordinator for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, stressed the need to implement quality campaigns in a timely manner, while fully operationalizing a consistent environmental surveillance system to enable early detection and adequate sample collection.

Further epidemiological investigations is ongoing, including risk assessments to determine the extent of the outbreak.

WHO experts in the field are also supporting Burundi with additional sample collection to further bolster polio surveillance, while assessing the possibility of opening new environmental surveillance sites for early detection of silently circulating poliovirus.

Circulating poliovirus type 2 is the most prevalent form of polio in Africa, accounting for most of polio outbreaks in the region, with more than 400 cases reported in 14 countries in 2022. Circulating poliovirus type 2 infection can occur when the weakened strain of the virus contained in the oral polio vaccine circulates among under-immunized populations for long periods.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) - Burundi.