Despite progress made in polio eradication, initiative phaseout poses threat to at-risk countries

This article appeared on the Helio blog on January 2, 2018

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has been paramount in the near-eradication of polio; however, the dismantling of this program once eradication has been completed may leave many countries vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases because of lack of funding for routine immunizations.

“Rethinking how to achieve global health goals, such as universal immunization, can be daunting, especially when restricted within large global programs and financing mechanisms,” Laura Kerr, LLM, a policy advocacy officer for child health at RESULTS UK, and Leila Stennett, campaigns director at RESULTS Australia, wrote. “Yet the scale of the wind down of the [Global Polio Eradication Initiative] partnership is something that has never happened before.”

“The size of potential funding gaps and the impact this could have on existing systems provides the ideal opportunity to re-evaluate how disease eradication and vaccine-preventable disease systems have been functioning; how can countries, donors and technical agencies work together to find the practical solutions to the challenges which have stalled immunization rates for the last 8 years?” they continued.

In the first 9 months of 2017, only 11 cases of polio were reported. This is partially due to 86% of the world’s children becoming immunized in 2016. However, three countries continue to have an endemic status: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Kerr notes that when eradication is completed, the efforts provided by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) thus far will come to a stop, leaving 16 countries with 50% less funding between 2017 and 2019. By 2019, all support will cease except within endemic or high-risk countries.

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