80% of the World’s Population live in Polio Free Regions: South-East Asia given the all clear

polio oral polio vaccine

The World Health Organization have certified the WHO South-East Asia region as polio-free

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced today that the South-East Asia region (SEAR) has been declared officially polio-free.

“This is a momentous victory for the millions of health workers who have worked with governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society and international partners to eradicate polio from the Region.” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for the WHO South-East Asia Region

This certification means that 11 countries in the South-East Asia region are now polio-free: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste

In order for a region to be certified as polio-free, a number of requirements must be met by the region and the countries within it:

  • At least three years of zero confirmed cases due to indigenous wild poliovirus
  • Excellent laboratory-based surveillance for poliovirus
  • A demonstrable capacity to detect, report and respond to imported cases of poliomyelitis
  • Assurance of safe containment of polioviruses in laboratories

Much of the progress that has been made over the past decade has come from improved patient access to oral polio vaccines (OPV) through increased efforts to map populations in order to identify and reach the most vulnerable sections of the SEAR population. for the most part, these vulnerable populations were children.

The hope now is that the improved infrastructure and information used to eradicate polio in the region, can now be used to treat and prevent other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, dengue, malaria and tuberculosis.

“Thanks to polio eradication, we now know where these children are who were difficult to reach with vaccine. Now the polio programme has successfully reached them with polio drops in every round, there is no excuse not to go back with other critical health services, from how to have a safe birth, to where to get access to tuberculosis treatment and how to prevent HIV infection”

The countries are now preparing to move away from oral polio vaccines and towards inactivated polio vaccines (IPV) as part of a wider shift across the world towards IPVs. currently 120 countries are using OPVs and are set to make the change to IPVs by 2015 in a bid to meet the WHO’s ambition of a polio free world by 2018.

Facts about polio certification

  • For certification, all countries in the WHO Region need to have no case of wild polio for 3 years.
  • No single country can be certified as polio-free. WHO regions as a whole are certified as polio-free.
  • The formal process for certification of polio eradication was established in 1995 at the first meeting of the Global Certification Commission (GCC).
  • There are national certification committees (NCCs) that focus on analysis at the country level. In WHO’s South-East Asia Region, each of the 11 Member States has an NCC.
  • All regions have a certification commission. In South-East Asia the Regional Certification Commission comprises 11 global and regional experts. It is this commission that can certify the South-East Asia Region as polio-free.
  • Three regions (Americas, 1994; Western Pacific, 2000; Europe, 2002) have already been certified as polio-free.

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