Sunday, August 21, 2005

Update on polio: Saudi vaccine push

Saudi Arabia is going to vaccinate all visitors under age 15 against polio.
Saudi Arabia, which gets millions of visitors each year making their pilgrimage to Mecca, has ordered all young visitors from countries with polio cases to bring proof of vaccination and will vaccinate them again when they arrive, the World Health Organization announced yesterday.

In issuing the order, which applies to everyone under age 15 from 19 countries, the kingdom is moving to stem the global spread of the polio virus, which now affects mainly Muslim countries and regions. Although the next pilgrimage, or hajj, will not reach its peak until early January, the order will take effect as soon as possible. ...

Global health experts expressed confidence that the Saudis could stop any spread of the virus in their country, even though at times up to two million pilgrims may be pressed closely together in crowds around the holy sites and in the tent cities and hostels where they will be staying.
You may recall that due to false rumors about the safety of the polio vaccine in northern Nigeria, a new polio epidemic arose there and spread to Mecca through pilgrims and to Yemen (more here) and Indonesia.

Because the pilgrimage to Mecca was perhaps the principal means by which polio was being spread through Muslim countries, this will be a big help. But the damage may already have been done:
Because many people in Indonesia travel back and forth to China, the Philippines and Malaysia, the risk of the disease spreading to those countries is very high, Dr. Aylward said.
Hopefully people keep this in mind the next time anti-vaccine activists spread unfounded rumors about the supposed inefficacy and harmfulness of vaccines.

1 Comments:

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