On Tuesday, political leaders and donors from around the world gathered in Abu Dhabi to attend the Pledging Moment for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The $2.6bn raised will help to ensure that the GPEI can implement their 2019-2023 Endgame Strategy to secure a polio-free world.
A number of countries and organisations pledged generously at the event, with the total amount raised marking significant progress towards the $3.27bn the GPEI needs. Earlier in November, we were delighted that the UK government confirmed it would be committing up to £400m to polio vaccinations, and whilst the exact details of this allocation will be confirmed next year, this commitment will help vaccinate more than 400 million children.
This funding matters because eradicating polio is completely achievable by 2023. The GPEI’s efforts so far have been a historic success, with only two endemic countries remaining (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and polio is now 99.9% eradicated. The pledges made will ensure that there is the infrastructure, capacity and the continued global political commitment to stop a resurgence of polio in the years ahead.
Of course, more funding will need to be sourced if the GPEI is to reach its $3.27bn target. In addition, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has approved support for the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which will be the only vaccine used after eradication. This is because it does not contain a live strain of the virus and so there is no risk of circulating vaccine-derived polio virus. To ensure that the IPV is available where needed, it is crucial that donors commit generously at Gavi’s replenishment conference next year.
This type of joint working with Gavi is vital because as GPEI support for polio-free and lower-risk countries gradually reduces in the lead up to eradication certification, properly managed “polio transition” becomes ever-more important. In order to sustain eradication, GPEI-supported countries will need to integrate core polio functions into their own health systems, and potentially find other sources of support. Furthermore, the expertise, resources and infrastructure the GPEI provides contribute to wider health systems and immunisation programmes – if transition is not planned properly, these wider gains could be at risk.
After the funding pledges and speeches are done, the hard work continues; health workers going community-to-community, door-to-door, child-to-child, often across difficult terrains and in dangerous areas in the process. This pledging moment should provide a boost their super-human efforts to eradicate polio once and for all.