Global leaders confirmed USD 2.6 billion in funding toward the Global Polio Eradication Initiatives at a pledging moment at the World Health Summit in Berlin.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation alone will contribute USD 1.2 billion, followed by the Rotary Foundation with a pledge of USD 150 million, the United States of America with USD 114 million, Bloomberg Philanthropies with a pledge of USD 50 million and UNICEF which will contribute USD 5 million, among others.
The funding will support global efforts to overcome the final hurdles to polio eradication, vaccinate 370 million children annually over the next five years and continue disease surveillance across 50 countries, in order to tame the virus which is transmitted mainly through the faecal-oral route and, less frequently, through contaminated water or food.
Although Wild poliovirus is endemic in just two countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan, the leaders acknowledge that until it is eradicated, no country is safe since the numbers have continued to grow. After just six cases were recorded in 2021, 29 cases have been recorded so far this year, including a small number of new detections in southeast Africa linked to a strain originating in Pakistan.
Additionally, outbreaks of the Vaccine Derived Polio Virus type 2 variants have been reported in places where not enough people have been immunized and continue to spread across parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. New outbreaks were detected in 19 African countries including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and Kenya over the last year.
“The new detections of polio this year in previously polio-free countries are a stark reminder that if we do not deliver our goal of ending polio everywhere, it may resurge globally,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Ian Riseley, the Chair of The Rotary Foundation, said that while polio exists anywhere, it is a threat everywhere and rallied the global community to recommit to the goal and ensure the resources and political will are fully available to protect children from polio paralysis while building stronger health systems.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell is optimistic that the support for the Global Polio Eradication Initiatives will enable it to deliver additional health services and immunizations alongside polio vaccines to underserved communities. She added that investing in immunization and health systems is tantamount to investing in a safer, healthier future for everyone, everywhere, especially Children.
“Children deserve to live in a polio-free world, but as we have seen this year with painful clarity until we reach every community and vaccinate every child, the threat of polio will persist,” She said.
Germany’s Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Svenja Schulze emphasized that as long as the virus still exists somewhere in the world, it can spread – to any country in the world, and pledged a contribution of 72 million Euro over the next two years in fighting polio.
The pledging moment in Berlin marked the first major opportunity to pledge support toward the USD 4.8 billion needed to fully implement the 2022-2026 Strategy. If the Strategy is fully funded and eradication achieved, it is estimated that it would result in USD 33.1 billion in health cost savings this century compared to the price of controlling outbreaks.
Seth Berkley, the Chief Executive Officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said that pledges will support GPEI’s new strategy which correctly focuses on mass vaccination campaigns, concerted efforts to strengthen essential immunization and integration with other critical health interventions and further rollout of next-generation oral polio vaccines.
In addition to the funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiatives, a group of more than 3 000 influential scientists, physicians, and public health experts from around the world released a declarationendorsing the 2022-2026 Strategy and calling on donors to stay committed to eradication and ensuring GPEI is fully funded.
The group points to new tactics contained in the program’s strategy, like the continued roll-out of the novel oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), that make them confident in GPEI’s ability to end polio. Five hundred million doses of nOPV2 have already been administered across 23 countries, and field data continue to show its promise as a tool to more sustainably stop outbreaks of type 2 cVDPV. URN
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