Every year on October 24, World Polio Day is observed to highlight worldwide efforts toward a polio-free world and to honour the unflinching commitment of individuals on the frontlines of the fight to eliminate polio.
This year’s topic, “World Polio Day 2022 and Beyond: A Healthier Future for Mothers and Children,” began in Geneva with conversations between WHO, Rotary International, and polio specialists about future initiatives to maintain the decades-long fight against polio.
Since the 41st World Health Assembly adopted the groundbreaking resolution for global polio eradication in 1988, global efforts have resulted in a 99.9% decline in polio cases. As many as 20 million children have been saved from infirmity and are now walking. Two of the three wild poliovirus strains (Types 2 and 3) have been declared eliminated, and the African Region will be declared free of indigenous wild polio in 2020.
This is commendable work that has protected millions of children and their families from this debilitating infection. However, the discovery of new outbreaks, especially in regions where polio was thought to be eliminated, serves as a sobering reminder that until we fulfil our pledge to eradicate all forms of polio everywhere, no kid is safe anywhere.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) 2022-2026 Polio Eradication Strategy lays forth the road map for completing this final mile. The large global commitment to support the approach made earlier this month at the 2022 World Health Summit polio pledge event was incredibly promising. In a display of global unity, Germany, together with 15 other nations, charities, international organisations, and various private sector initiatives, pledged more than US$ 2.6 billion to the plan – more than half of the overall objective.
We now have a significant chance to boost up eradication operations because to this fresh funding commitment. This requires increased surveillance and high-quality immunisation programmes targeting zero-dose children for vaccination against all polio strains in the African Region.
WHO reported the effective closure of 32 outbreaks in ten countries at the end of the first quarter of 2022. However, there are persistent outbreaks that require us to be attentive and complete the task. This is essential for Africa’s efforts to eliminate new instances of wild polio.
According to the most recent figures for the continent, more than 250 instances of polio-related paralysis have been reported this year. That is more than 250.
500 million vaccine doses have been delivered globally to suppress outbreaks of the circulating polio variety, with 95% of them administered in Africa. There has been no additional transmission after two rounds of immunisation. The polio response has also encouraged the development of novel digital technology to identify, track, and effectively distribute immunizations, particularly to individuals in remote locations.
Our efforts to achieve a polio-free world are also strengthening the larger public health system, improving overall responsiveness to other health risks and catastrophes. The polio structure has been critical in enabling worldwide monitoring and the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as boosting the effectiveness of the Region’s emergency response to illnesses such as measles and cholera.
To fully maximise our limited public health resources in the future, we must continue to progress our polio transition strategies alongside eradication operations.