Japan OKs Sanofi's inactivated polio vaccine

Japan has granted marketing approval for its first inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), Sanofi's ($SNY) Imovax Polio, and will begin using the vaccine in public immunization programs beginning Sept. 1. Imovax Polio was first launched in 1982, and is now available in 86 countries worldwide.

The Japanese authorities have been using oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) as part of its public immunization programs since 1961, and the country (and the Western Pacific region) was declared polio-free in 2000. Since 1988, when the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Polio Eradication Initiative started, polio vaccination has cut cases of wild-type polio 99%. However, the oral form of the vaccine, which contains a low dose of active virus, can lead to cases of vaccine-derived polio. As Imovax Polio is inactivated, it does not carry this risk.

According to the WHO, 1 in 200 infections with poliovirus leads to irreversible paralysis, and 5% to 10% of the patients who become paralyzed die. There are now only three countries in the world where polio is endemic, but during 2009-2010, 23 countries became re-infected, reinforcing the importance of vaccination worldwide, even in countries that are free of the disease.

- read the press release