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The Polio Paradox
News Bytes 12/9/2019 101 Comments

Nigeria, Congo, Central African Republic, and Angola report nine new cases of polio linked to the oral polio vaccine. Seven other African countries, Asia, and Pakistan report similar outbreaks. Today, more children are paralyzed by the live oral vaccine than from polio caught in the wild.    

Polio is a highly infectious disease that spreads through contaminated water or food. Symptoms are severe and can cause paralysis. There isn’t a cure for polio, but it can be prevented by immunization.

Vaccines are fascinating tools that combat dangerous diseases. By introducing certain trace amounts of some viruses and bacteria into the human body, the body’s immune system learns to recognize those harmful entities and attack them aggressively. This offers future disease protection.

There are two types of polio vaccine. The oral vaccine is cheap and easy to administer. It’s most often used in lesser developed countries. But because it’s a live vaccine, it carries more risk than the injectable vaccine. In some cases, the live virus changes inside the recipient’s body. It becomes too strong for the body’s immune system to fight off. In those cases, the person who received the vaccine gets sick with polio. That cannot happen with the injectable vaccine. It uses a killed sample of the virus. This vaccine is more costly, but much safer. It is not capable of causing polio.

Vaccine-linked cases of polio are rare, but they do exist. The latest vaccine-derived polio cases came from a Type 2 virus in the vaccine. Interesting note — the Type 2 wild virus was eradicated years ago.  

The World Health Organization wants all vaccine-derived outbreaks stopped within 120 days of detection. The latest cases are concerning and call for concerted action.

Higher cost keeps the better vaccination from getting to the hundreds of thousands of children who need it. With limited resources, sometimes corners are cut. The oral polio vaccine is a low-cost defense against a horrendous disease. But should cost jeopardize safety? Could lesser developed countries have better access to the inactive, injectable immunization?

Every single life is immeasurably valuable in God’s sight. Christ gave His own life for our eternally perfect spiritual and physical health. We have hope that one day there won’t be a need for protection against disease because there will be no more sickness. Period.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away  — Revelation 21:4

(In this January 25, 2002, file photo, a Congolese child receives a polio vaccination. AP/Karel Prinsloo

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