Iran receives Polio-Free certificate from WHO

Financial Tribune- Iran received the certification for polio eradication from the World Health Organization on February 19 after decades of battling the virus.

In order to ensure that all the requirements for polio eradication certification are met by the member states, a review of the annual updates of respective national documentation, including phase-1 laboratory containment reports, are conducted by the international health watchdog.

“By reaching self-sufficiency in production of polio vaccine by the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute and eradication of polio, Iran was awarded the WHO certification,” announced Hamid Kahram, institute director, as reported by IANA.

The coverage of polio immunization program is 100% across the country while it used to be 30% before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Vaccines are supplied by Razi Institute, which is the only one in the Middle East producing the polio vaccine.

After the polio eradication program was initiated in 1988 by the WHO, the number of polio cases abruptly decreased. In 1988, polio paralyzed nearly 350,000 children annually worldwide while in 2007 just 1,360 cases were reported.

Polio immunization in Iran since 1991 was based on high routine immunization coverage, robust Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance system and high quality supplementary immunization activities that saw the number of reported cases decrease from 50 to zero in 2001. Iran has been polio free since 2001.

However, as poliomyelitis in Afghanistan and Pakistan (two neighboring countries of Iran) is endemic and due to the large number of people traveling to Iran from these countries, the risk of polio importation and re-emergence of wild polio virus remained very high.

The last laboratory-confirmed indigenous polio case was reported in 1997. From 1998–2000, cases were imported from Pakistan/Afghanistan of wild virus circulation. But no polio cases were registered in Iran since 2001.

Since 1999, supplementary national immunization days in high-risk areas and populations such as the southeastern border province of Sistan-Baluchistan, are conducted annually.

The national poliovirus laboratory in Tehran University of Medical Sciences, School of Public Health, is a WHO-accredited laboratory of the Eastern Mediterranean Region poliovirus laboratories network. It performs intra-typic differentiation of polioviruses.

Recently, Iran was entrusted by the WHO with the task of polio vaccine production required for immunization against the disease in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In order to fulfill the responsibility, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Iran Pasteur Institute and Shafa Darou, a knowledge-based company (affiliated to Bank Melli).

Pakistan and Afghanistan which share common borders with Iran in the southeast are the two remaining countries in the world where poliomyelitis is still categorized as an endemic viral infection.

Iran has the infrastructure to produce sufficient polio vaccine to meet the domestic needs of immunization programs and also for people in the neighboring countries.