Polio eradication: 11 milestones as seen on Twitter

Polio 2015

October 24th marked a new World Polio Day: an occasion to celebrate a year full of success for polio eradication initiatives. Sanofi Le Hub invites you to review the key milestones punctuating the fight against this infectious disease. Strongly feared in the 20th century, it is now almost eradicated, with the number of case declared reduced by 99% since 1988, the launch year of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).



1. Polio eradication: a long and hard-fought battle



The first treatment developed against polio was the injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) introduced by Jonas Salk in 1955, followed by the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) perfected by Albert Sabin in 1962. Thanks to these medical advances and the organization of mass vaccination campaigns, polio disappeared in the West at the end of the 20th century.

In order to spread this success to the rest of the world, WHO, UNICEF and Rotary International launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988. This is a program based on the development of effective monitoring and vaccination systems.



2. 2015 marks a significant fall in polio worldwide



Thanks to all the individual and collective efforts made at a global level, this year has seen a spectacular fall in new cases of poliomyelitis worldwide: compared with the 359 cases of wild poliovirus reported in 2014, we have seen only 51 in 2015.

When looking at the bigger picture, poliomyelitis cases have decreased by 99% since the GPEI launch year of 1988, when the virus was still endemic in 125 countries. Today, this is true of only two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan.



 3. Rotary’s Polio Plus program is celebrating its 30th Birthday



Committed to the fight against Polio, Rotary unveiled its PolioPlus program in 1985 with the objective of vaccinating children against polio worldwide. This initiative is the first and most important campaign of public health lead by a non-governmental organization. In 2015 EndPolio campaign is celebrating 30 years fighting polio with great success.



4. Africa celebrates its first polio-free year



The last case of poliomyelitis in Africa was reported in Somalia on August 11th, 2014. Since that date, no new cases have been recorded anywhere on the continent, which represents a major advance in the complete eradication of this disease.



5. Nigeria leaves the list of endemic countries



On September 26th this year, one month after Africa’s first polio-free anniversary, the WHO announced that Nigeria had been removed from the list of endemic countries. In the relevant press release, the WHO was in a celebratory mood: “This is the first time that transmission of the wild poliovirus has been halted in Nigeria, which means that the entire region of Africa is now the closest it has ever been to being certified free of poliomyelitis.”



6. Mission Polio: research meets field experience



Between June 29th and July 1st this year, David and Gabriel, two Sanofi Pasteur employees responsible for the OPV and the IPV vaccine production, visited Cameroon as field representatives of their company and colleagues who, like them, actively contribute to the eradication of poliomyelitis. As a longstanding partner of the GPEI, Sanofi Pasteur has provided 1.7 billion doses of the OPV worldwide and is now stepping up its production of the IPV to a level that makes it the world’s leading provider of this vaccine. This increase is designed to ensure that the vaccine is introduced into new countries as a necessary step towards total worldwide eradication of the disease.



7. IPV generalization recommended by the most important control authorities




Introduced in 2013, the GPEI Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan has been adopted by 194 countries. This roadmap sets out the strategy for disrupting the wild poliovirus transmission by introducing at least one dose of IPV in all countries. Ultimately, the program is planned to replace all OPVs with IPVs to disrupt the airborne presence of the virus and its mutation – both of which are enabled by the oral vaccine – thereby improving vaccination rates. Indeed, the injectable form of the IPV drastically helps to reduce airborne contamination risks.



8. A new step toward a polio-free world: the introduction of IPV in 120 new countries



In order to achieve the goal of a world free of polio by 2018, Sanofi Pasteur and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are offering a new IPV pricing structure so that 120 new countries can be provided with large quantities of high-quality vaccines at low cost to ensure their rapid and widespread adoption.


“The IPV price reduction contributes to demolishing the cost barrier for this vaccine as we progress towards a world free of polio,” said Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “It marks a major advance in our commitment to ensuring that all children have access to this essential vaccine, regardless of where they live.”





9. From trivalent OPV to bivalent OPV: the wild poliovirus type 2 eradication




Before completely switching from the OPV to the IPV, the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 recommends a preliminary substitution to replace the trivalent oral polio vaccine currently used in many countries with the bivalent oral polio vaccine.  This switch is scheduled for April 2016 and is expected to be completed in two weeks.

The withdrawal of the trivalent oral polio vaccines means that type 2 poliomyelitis has disappeared: therefore only two types remain to be eliminated before the complete eradication of the disease is complete.



10. The fight against polio continues, especially in conflict areas



Conflicts result in resurgences of polio, due to the massive displacement of populations and the destruction of health institutions during the confrontations. Therefore a lot of children are not vaccinated against polio, which increases epidemic risk, especially in areas of a high population density, like the Jordanian camps where thousands of Syrians take refuge. To fight these risks, health authorities and NGOs have established important vaccination campaigns that are becoming more and more effective, even in the most remote areas. The resurgences seen in northern Cameroon, Syria and the Horn of Africa in 2013/2014 were rapidly annihilated: there have been no new cases in these countries for more than a year.



11.  Mistrust of vaccines: a major battle in the eradication of polio




Although it disappeared from Europe in 2010, polio reappeared in August this year, with two new cases reported in the Ukraine.

Contrary to potential assumption, the disease did not emerge in conflict zones, but in the west of the country. This is primarily due to by the use of the oral polio vaccine, which is effective at reducing the prevalence of the virus without eradicating it completely. The virus can then be expelled into the environment, mutate in combination with other viruses, and become virulent once again. Additionally the Ukraine has long suffered from poor vaccination coverage (19% of children in this region have been vaccinated, according to the WHO) due to a significant anti-vaccine movement and general mistrust of vaccinations. To fight against this phenomenon the Ukraine launched an important vaccination campaign at the end of October.

A timely reminder which highlights the fact that polio can reappear anywhere if it is not eradicated completely.


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