Vaccine switch urged for polio: Oral vaccine to be phased out?

The GAVI Alliance is to begin providing support for the introduction of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) as part of routine immunisation programmes in the world’s 73 poorest countries, GAVI’s Board decided today.

This decision will enable the Alliance to help countries reach more children with important vaccines, and play a complementary role supporting the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in eradicating polio as part of implementing the polio endgame strategy.

In May 2013, the World Health Assembly endorsed the new Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018, calling on countries to introduce at least one dose of IPV and begin the phased removal of oral polio vaccines. Removing oral polio vaccines will eliminate the risk of vaccine-associated polio outbreaks.  Introducing IPV is a critical step to manage any risks associated with this phased removal. 

Adding IPV to routine immunisation programmes will improve immunity and help prevent new vaccine-associated outbreaks from emerging. At the same time, it will hasten eradication of wild polio serotypes in the remaining endemic countries of Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Historic Decision

“Supporting IPV introduction is an historic decision that supports the polio endgame strategy and benefits the world’s poorest and most marginalised children,” said GAVI Alliance Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten. “In some parts of India, which have struggled with the life-long disabilities and deaths caused by polio for generations, we have already seen how polio and routine immunisation programmes can be linked to help boost coverage. It is a classic example of the importance of combining resources to extend reach and ensure that more children receive the protection they need and deserve, wherever they live.”

The GAVI Board endorsed opening a window of support for IPV for all GAVI-eligible countries and those graduating from GAVI support. Given the global health priority of polio eradication, the Board agreed to a number of policy exceptions for IPV, such as encouraging but not requiring countries to co-finance IPV introduction.

Donors have been actively engaged in discussions around GAVI’s role in supporting IPV introductions and have committed additional resources to GAVI from the pledges they made to the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan. Providing the funds through GAVI will build upon the Alliance’s proven track record of supporting countries to strengthen immunisation services and introduce new vaccines.

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