The proportion of infants immunized against polio in Syria is close to prewar levels thanks to a vaccination drive triggered by a rare outbreak of the disease, a World Health Organization official said. The crippling and incurable disease erupted in October 2013 in the eastern Deir Ezzor province, the first outbreak in Syria since 1999.
In 2013, 36 cases were recorded but last year only one, the WHO has said. The regional vaccination drive launched by aid agencies has now reached most areas in Syria’s 14 governorates, said Christopher Maher, the WHO’s anti-polio campaign director.
“While we would not go out on a limb here and say there is no transmission of polio any more in Syria, it certainly looks very encouraging,” Maher told Reuters late Tuesday after a WHO meeting in Beirut. After the campaign, WHO monitors went door-to-door to check on immunity levels of children aged up to two years and estimated that most had been protected, he said. “The polio immunity level would be…pretty close to pre-crisis levels,” Maher added. Overall immunization rates in the country were around 90 percent before the 2011 uprising and dropped to around 50 percent as war disrupted routine vaccinations. (Source: Agencies)