Transition planning is a critical part of preparing for the polio-free world. As we come closer to achieving eradication, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) will begin to wind down its operations, and will come to a close in the post-eradication era.
Over three decades of operation, GPEI has built significant infrastructure for disease surveillance, social mobilization, and vaccine delivery; developed in-depth knowledge and expertise; and learned valuable lessons about reaching the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations on earth.
Some of this key knowledge, infrastructure and functions of GPEI will be transitioned into ongoing health initiatives. National governments and the GPEI partners, in collaboration with other stakeholders, are working together to plan this transition process.
Why do we need to transition polio assets?
After the world achieves eradication, some of the key functions, knowledge and expertise of GPEI will still be needed to ensure the world stays polio free. Polio assets have also been contributing to health and development initiatives beyond polio, and the wind down of GPEI could have adverse effects on these programmes.
Priority elements of the polio infrastructure need to be incorporated into national and global health initiatives to maintain the polio-free world, and ensure the continued success of other health services and programmes.
What is transition planning?
The Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategy identifies three main features of transition planning:
Keeping the world polio free
In the years immediately after eradication, some functions of GPEI will need to continue to make sure the virus cannot re-emerge. These include vaccination against polio, strong disease surveillance systems, outbreak preparedness, and containment of the virus in laboratories and vaccine manufacturing facilities.
National governments and GPEI partners must plan for some essential functions to be incorporated into ongoing public health systems and programmes in order to keep the world polio-free.
As a first step, GPEI is developing a post-certification strategy, in consultation with of a wide range of stakeholders, to identify which specific functions must be maintained and the policy decisions, mechanisms and financial requirement needed to maintain these functions.
Transitioning polio assets to support other health priorities
GPEI runs an extensive infrastructure of global disease surveillance systems, vaccine supply and logistics networks, and a network of over 140 polio laboratories. It has built significant communication for development know-how and capacity building expertise, and developed thousands of skilled staff and millions of community based health workers, social mobilisers, and volunteers. GPEI’s operational capacities help reach populations in areas with little to no infrastructure.
This infrastructure already goes much further than polio eradication, supporting a wide range of health initiatives like routine immunization, measles campaigns, maternal and child health programmes, humanitarian emergencies and disease outbreak, and sanitation and hygiene programmes.
The closure of GPEI presents a potential risk to these programmes, as they are vulnerable to the loss of support from the polio program. Parts of the polio infrastructure currently supporting other health and development programmes may be transitioned to national and global health initiatives to reduce these risks.
Capture and transfer the lessons learned
GPEI has learned many valuable lessons on reaching hard-to-reach and high-risk populations, working in conflict affected areas, harnessing global commitment to a cause, and other challenging areas. A key component of transition planning is to capture and share these lessons for the benefit of the broader development community.
Learn more about capturing and sharing lessons learned.
How to plan for the transition of assets
Transition planning requires mapping of the infrastructure, functions and knowledge of the polio programme at country, regional and global levels, and analysing against national and global health and development needs. Where there is overlap, and where it is possible, assets will be incorporated into alternative health programmes and systems. Remaining functions of GPEI will be scaled down and closed along with the programme.
GPEI has set up a Transition Independent Monitoring Board (TIMB) to independently monitor and guide the transition planning process. Reporting to the Polio Oversight Board, the TIMB will assess the quality, sufficiency and results of transition planning efforts.
The TIMB will hold its first meeting in early May 2017.