Reports that Africa has been declared free of Polio have been circulating online.
This has been met with skepticism, with some questioning whether it is fake news, while conspiracy masterminds claim that declaring Africa free of Polio during the COVID-19 pandemic is but a ploy to make people get a COVID-19 vaccine, and speaking of vaccines, in came the anti-Bill Gates conspiracies.
Polio, also known as Poliomyelitis, is a viral disease that largely affects children under 5-years-old. The virus spreads from person to person, especially through contaminated water, and can affect the nervous system hence leading to muscle weakness or paralysis. The virus has no cure, but can be prevented by an oral vaccine.
The World Health Assembly in 1988 launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which was supported by national governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi and the Vaccine Alliance.
According to the WHO, two of the three strains of Poliovirus had previously been eradicated globally- the type 2 strain was eradicated in 1999 while no case of the type 3 strain had been reported since 2012. The WHO statement adds that India was free on polio in January 2011, and the entire WHO Southeast Asia Region received a polio-free certification in March 2014.
On August 25, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa announced that Africa has marked a “momentous milestone” having eradicated the Poliovirus as the second virus eradicated from the face of the continent since Smallpox 40 years ago.
According to a UN report, the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication made the declaration after the last case of the Poliovirus in Africa was detected in 2016 in Nigeria.
This declaration only applies to 47 countries in Africa, which are part of the WHO, out of the 54 total states on the continent.
WHO states that as of 2020, the Poliovirus type 1 only affects Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Contrary to claims that the polio vaccine is connected to a COVID-19 vaccine, there is currently no (WHO-approved) vaccine against COVID-19 either by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or any other organization that has been approved for administration.