A new vaccine designed to combat the last two strains of polio is being used for the first time in southern Afghanistan in an attempt to eradicate the disease globally (Sam Lister writes).

The bivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (bOPV) has proven 30 per cent more effective than other formulations at tackling the two strains. There were only 1,600 new cases last year, compared with more than 350,000 in 1988, when polio was endemic in 125 countries. Now only Nigeria, India and Pakistan remain at risk and bOPV will be made available to them early in the New Year (2010). The vaccine which protects against polio types 1 and 3, has been developed by the World Health Organisation, with additional funding from the British Government Its introduction is part of the Department for International Development’s £100 million drive to tackle polio over the next five years.

The department will announce today the release of £23 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Mike Foster, the International Development Minister, said: “New infections have been reduced by over 99 per cent.”

The TIMES, London 30/12/2009