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Seychelles acclaims wild-polio free status

On 25th August 2020 Seychelles obtained the “Wild-polio free” certification from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a virtual conference held by the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication to commemorate eradication of the wild poliovirus in the WHO Africa region.

Locally, this prestigious status came about from a collaborative effort between local entities and international partners. It was spearheaded by the National Certification Committee, introduced in 2001, which comprised of a secretariat for Polio eradication as well as a National Polio Task Force.

Working with a strong political commitment and assistance from WHO/AFRO – (African Region) this newly introduced body, rallied support from the Seychelles Public Health Laboratory and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) from South Africa to assist in Polio laboratory containment to ensure effective management of the virus and continue the work towards wild polio eradication in Seychelles.

While the campaign against wild polio began in 1960, when the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) was initiated, efforts in Seychelles truly took off six years later, in 1966, when a mass immunization campaign against polio, for babies and school children was conducted, following detection of a positive case for wild polio. Since then, there has been no Polio cases diagnosed in Seychelles.

In 1970, OPV was included in the routine immunisation schedule, which is a programme for national vaccination of infants aged 3, 4, 5, and 18 months, for six-year-olds and adolescents aged 15 years. The programme had a coverage of above 99% and, polio eradication in Seychelles was prioritised. Cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP), a main symptom of the virus presenting as a rapid onset of severe muscle weakness were monitored closely in all public and private health facilities. There was also the constant monitoring of immunisation locally and the NCC also found it essential to develop a contingency plan, in case
of reintroduction of wild-polio virus in Seychelles. It has been mandatory since 2007, to report on progresses made and challenges faced, WHO/AFRO for review, all part of the process required to acquire the wild-polio free status. Over the years, immunisation efforts have been the pinnacle of reducing the number of wild-polio cases globally.

Years of efforts started bearing fruit, when a polio eradication certification was presented to the African Regional Certification Committee (ARCC), in November 2006 and Seychelles was recognised to be at eradication certification level. With all the countries in the African Region now at this level, eradication status has been was bestowed upon the region to mark this milestone.

Polio or poliomyelitis is a virus causing the disease once feared worldwide, causing paralysis mainly in children, affects the spinal cord and can spread from person to person though direct contact, is now history. Mrs. Florida Bijoux, Programme Manager for the Expanded Programme for Immunisation in Seychelles, expressed her gratitude towards all the stakeholders involved in the programme and adds “It has been a long way since the Department of Health started the mammoth task with the assistance from WHO/AFRO. However, we still need to sustain and maintain Polio free status in Seychelles”.