Sabin Statement on Polio Agenda Item at WHO Executive Board Meeting
The following statement was prepared by the Sabin Vaccine Institute in response to Agenda Item 13 on Poliomyelitis eradication discussed at the 152nd session of the World Health Organization Executive Board January 30 – February 7, 2023.
Thank you colleagues on behalf of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
The report on the Polio Eradication Strategy 2022–2026 rightly notes that “known reservoirs of poliovirus” are “are all affected by a significant and highly concentrated density of zero-dose children and communities” and makes clear that polio cannot be eradicated without robust integration of polio campaigns with routine immunization services.
To address transmission of wild poliovirus type 1 in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as vaccine-derived poliovirus cases reported from 26 countries in three regions in the last 2 years, we urge WHO and member states to prioritize immunization service integration in communities most at risk of polio, including a laser focus on listening and co-crafting solutions with communities of high numbers of zero-dose children.
Although the report rightly notes the challenges to polio eradication of the human and financial resources from polio campaigns utilized for the COVID-19 pandemic response, it would be dangerous to assume status quo programming can adequately address challenges outlined in the report as some pandemic-related challenges dissipate.
Member states must build on integration efforts noted in the report between polio and COVID-19 vaccination campaigns toward focused integration efforts across immunization programs. Sabin also urges more focused efforts to integrate and align the gender-responsive programming strategies of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Immunization Agenda 2030 and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
We further urge implementation of April 2022 recommended actions by GPEI’s Independent Monitoring Board, including that “reactive and outbreak response activities, as well as preventive vaccination activities, are implemented in a multiantigen format where possible, signaling the importance to communities that polio immunization is a mainstream children’s health necessity.”
Going forward, GPEI’s eradication efforts will only be as effective as its ability to listen and act on the expertise and wisdom of the voices of health workers, caregivers, recipients and leaders in communities most at-risk of transmission.