‘Nigeria Is Paving The Way For A Polio-free Africa’
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
“Nigeria is paving the way for a polio-free Africa,” according to John Vertefeuille, team lead for Nigeria at the Centers for Disease Control.
With the World Health Organization reporting no cases of polio in Nigeria since July 24, 2014 and the last in Africa reported in August, Vertefeuille’s enthusiasm is well-founded.
The infrastructure that supports polio immunizations was used early in the West African’Ebola epidemic to stop its spread in Nigeria, Vertefeueille notes. “The recent Ebola outbreak in Nigeria was successfully interrupted in part because the polio eradication response infrastructure was used; in particular, members of the Nigeria Polio Emergency Operations Center were deployed to coordinate the multi-agency Ebola response.”
Vertefeueille adds cautiously, “Final steps toward polio eradication in Nigeria will require continued national program innovations and strategies to improve polio vaccine coverage for underserved and hard-to-reach communities.”
On Friday, January 9, 2015 at 5:00 Eastern, Vertefeueille will join me for a live discussion about ending polio in Africa once and for all. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.
More about the Centers for Disease Control:
For more than 60 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has used its scientific expertise to help people throughout the world live healthier, safer, longer lives. CDC’s Center for Global Health coordinates and manages the agency’s resources and expertise to address global challenges such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, emergency and refugee health, non-communicable diseases, injuries, and more.
The Center for Global Health leads the execution of CDC’s global health approach, working in partnership to assist Ministries of Health to plan, manage effectively, and evaluate health programs; achieve U.S. Government program and international organization goals to improve health, including disease eradication and elimination targets; expand CDC’s global health programs that focus on the leading causes of mortality, morbidity and disability, especially chronic disease and injuries; generate and apply new knowledge to achieve health goals; and strengthen health systems and their impact. CDC remains committed to ensuring that every dollar spent achieves maximum public health impact.
Boy with polio with his mom in front of their home in, Nigeria. Photo credit Stacey Hoffman, CDC
John F. Vertefeuille, Ph.D., M.H.S., is the team lead for Nigeria in the CDC Polio Response. He oversees all CDC’s polio eradication work in Nigeria and supervises a large staff both in Nigeria and at CDC HQ in Atlanta.
Dr. Vertefeuille has served as the CDC Country Director in Haiti, Tanzania and Nigeria where he led CDC efforts working in partnership with other U.S. government agencies and national health agencies on public health programs such as HIV, tuberculosis, cholera, vaccine preventable diseases, emergency obstetrics care, malaria, and lymphatic filariasis.
In Haiti, he worked to expand access to HIV services and rebuild the public health infrastructure following the devastating earthquake of January 2010 and the cholera outbreak that began in October of the same year.
In Tanzania, Dr. Vertefeuille managed public health investments primarily focused on HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
In Nigeria, Dr. Vertefeuille oversaw the growth of the CDC program from eight people to a 65-person country office. During this time, he strategically designed interventions to increase access to quality life-saving HIV services, to greatly improve laboratory diagnostics in the country, and guided the outbreak response and the diagnosis of the first human case of H5N1 avian influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.
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