WHO Executive Board adopts landmark resolution
22 January 2012 - Since 1988, the year the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched, the incidence of polio has been slashed by 99%. The number of endemic countries has fallen from 125 to just three. India, one of the most technically-challenging places from where to eradicate polio, has not reported a case in more than a year. Outbreaks in previously polio-free countries are increasingly coming under control.
And yet, key independent strategic advisory and monitoring bodies such as the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization (SAGE) have expressed grave concerns that unless drastic changes are implemented, the risk of failure to finish the job completely remains very real - a prospect the SAGE called 'not acceptable under any circumstance'.
Reviewing the latest global polio situation, on 21 January 2012, the WHO's Executive Board (EB) adopted a landmark resolution, declaring the completion of polio eradication a 'programmatic emergency for global public health'.
The EB resolution outlines clear steps countries should take to minimise the risk and consequences of becoming re-infected, including to:
- identify any areas with suboptimal immunization coverage and rapidly fill these gaps;
- strengthen surveillance to more rapidly detect a potential virus importation (allowing for a more rapid outbreak response); and,
- fully apply vaccination recommendations for all travellers to polio-infected areas.
In response to the EB's declaration, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is urgently finalizing a Polio Emergency Action Plan 2012-2013. The new plan will establish an emergency approach, enhance management, accountability and performance monitoring and drive innovation to address systemic problems.