This week, the same story is making the same headlines, with the WHO’s shamefaced announcement that the oral polio vaccine is responsible for an alarming polio outbreak in Sudan—“linked to an ongoing vaccine-sparked epidemic in Chad”—with parallel outbreaks in a dozen other African countries. In fact, between August 2019 and August 2020, there were 400 recorded cases of vaccine-derived polio in more than 20 countries worldwide. Ironically, WHO disclosed this “setback” barely a week after it declared the African continent to be free of wild poliovirus—which has not been seen in Africa since 2016. While African epidemiologists cheerily claim that these outbreaks can “be brought under control with further immunization,” and Sudan prepares to launch a mass polio vaccination campaign, WHO is warning that “the risk of further spread of the vaccine-derived polio across central Africa and the Horn of Africa” is high.
The Gates Foundation is a leading funder of oral polio vaccination in Africa and around the world, having dedicated nearly $4 billion to such efforts by the end of 2018. As discussed in Forbes in May 2019, Gates has “personally [driven] the development” of new oral polio vaccines and plays a “strategic role beyond funding.”