The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is deeply saddened by the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her leadership, steadfastness and commitment to service was exemplary throughout her life, and made her a globally-respected moral voice for some of the most marginalized people in our world. We wish to express our deepest sympathy to her family and of course to all the people of the UK and indeed the Commonwealth.
The UK, Commonwealth and indeed the Royal Family have long been a proud and important supporter to the global eradication effort, and none has arguably been a more committed advocate than His Majesty King Charles III. While still HRH Prince of Wales, Charles III engaged personally in this effort, adding his voice and commitment to ensuring children around the world are fully protected from lifelong polio paralysis.
In October 2003 in India, HRH Prince Charles participated in Polio National Immunization Days, observing the vaccination of children in villages on the outskirts of New Delhi. In 2018, at the Commonwealth Leaders Summit, HRH Prince Charles highlighted the polio programme as an example of successful, joint action against disease, noting that hundreds of millions of children have benefitted from polio vaccination thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. In 2013, during another visit to India, he acknowledged Rotary’s tremendous efforts in eradicating polio in India, as he accepted and posed with a Rotary ‘End Polio Now’ scarf for media photographers.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative would like to extend our very best wishes to His Majesty King Charles III, for a long and successful reign. Under his leadership, and indeed the UK and the Commonwealth’s, the effort to eradicate polio will continue unabated until our common goal of achieving a lasting world free of all forms of poliovirus is fully achieved.
The Global Polio Laboratory Network (GPLN) has confirmed the isolation of type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV2) from environmental samples in London, United Kingdom (UK), which were detected as part of ongoing disease surveillance. It is important to note that the virus has been isolated from environmental samples only – no associated cases of paralysis have been detected. Recent coverage for the primary course of DTaP/IPV/Hib/HepB vaccination, which protects against several diseases including polio, in London suggests immunization coverage of 86.6%.
Initially, vaccine-like type 2 poliovirus (SL2) had been isolated from samples taken from the same site between February and May 2022. Genetic analysis suggests that the new VDPV2 and previous SL2 isolates have a common origin, still to be identified, but the technical definition and criteria for ‘circulation’ of VDPV2 are not met at this time. Additional sewage samples collected upstream from the main waste-water treatment plant’s inlet are being analysed.
Investigations and response by the UK Health Security Agency are ongoing to:
assess both origin and risk of circulation associated with these isolates;
strengthen poliovirus surveillance including enterovirus and environmental;
explore routine immunization catch-up of children who are under-immunized, including of families that have recently arrived in the UK from countries with recent use of type 2-containing oral polio vaccine; and,
enhance communications about this incident to health professionals and caregivers.
It is important that all countries, in particular those with a high volume of travel and contact with polio-affected countries and areas, strengthen surveillance in order to rapidly detect any new virus importation and to facilitate a rapid response. Countries, territories, and areas should also maintain uniformly high routine immunization coverage at the district level and at the lowest administrative level to protect children from polio and to minimize the consequences of any new virus being introduced.
Any form of poliovirus anywhere is a threat to children everywhere. It is critical that the GPEI Polio Eradication Strategy 2022-2026 is fully resourced and fully implemented everywhere, to ensure a world free of all forms of poliovirus can be attained.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is greatly concerned by the United Kingdom’s proposed cuts to contributions toward polio eradication in 2021. The proposed 95% reduction will result in an enormous setback to the eradication effort at a critical moment.
The UK has a long legacy as a leader in global health and its leadership in polio eradication, including financial contributions to the GPEI, have driven wild poliovirus out of all but two countries in the world. The GPEI values the UK government’s steadfast partnership and shared commitment to eradicating polio, and UK citizens have generously championed the drive to end polio. This has helped bring the world to the cusp of being polio-free, whilst providing an investment in broader public health capacity.
In 2019, the UK government pledged to help vaccinate more than 400 million children a year against polio and to support 20 million health workers and volunteers in this vital work. In addition to their life-saving work to end polio, these health workers have been in the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 and have helped some of the world’s most vulnerable countries protect their citizens. The UK’s ongoing support is needed to ensure that the polio infrastructure can continue supporting COVID-19 response efforts, while also resuming lifesaving immunization services against other deadly childhood diseases. In 2020, the UK government’s contributions ensured that the GPEI could continue to support outbreak response in 25 countries and conduct surveillance in nearly 50, all whilst strengthening health systems. The continuation of such support will not be possible unless replacement funds are identified, and as such, this funding cut will have a potentially devastating impact on the polio eradication program.
The GPEI recognises the challenging economic circumstances faced by the UK government and a host of other countries. Governments worldwide are making critical investments in the health of their citizens, as well as evaluating global commitments. Cutting the UK government’s contributions by 95% will, however, put millions of children at increased risk of diseases such as polio and will weaken the ability of countries to detect and respond to outbreaks of polio and other infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Furthermore, it risks delaying polio eradication and the dismantling of one of the most effective disease surveillance and response networks at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues its devastation.
GPEI looks forward to working with the UK and the broader global community to address these urgent issues, which jeopardize the collective investment and progress toward a polio free world. Together we can end polio forever and ensure that polio infrastructure and its assets continue to strengthen preparedness and response and save lives.
On 27 November, Barry Rassin, Rotary International President, presented the Polio Eradication Champion Award to UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, for her exemplary leadership role in driving the cause of eradicating polio. In 2017, the UK pledged US$ 130 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) for 2017-2019. So far, the country’s total financial contribution is US$ 1.6 billion, the second highest amount from a G7 donor. The UK has also been a strong advocate of the cause.
The Polio Eradication Champion Award was established in 1996 to honour heads of state, leaders of health agencies, and other inspiring individuals who have played an instrumental role in ending polio. Theresa May joins an illustrious list of past award winners including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.
“Britain’s leadership in making multiyear commitments in support of global polio eradication has been an example for other countries to follow,” said Barry Rassin at the occasion.
Citing dramatic gains achieved with polio vaccines, Prime Minister David Cameron joins Bill and Melinda Gates to call on world leaders to finish the job
DAVOS, Switzerland – British Prime Minister David Cameron said on 28 January that the United Kingdom would double its current contribution to polio eradication.
Mr Cameron called on other donors to back the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as he announced the UK’s commitment that will see an extra 45 million children fully vaccinated against the disease. Noting the question of international development assistance in the current financial climate, Mr Cameron said, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”
In 20 years, polio cases have been reduced by 99 percent and the disease is now close to being only the second in history – after smallpox – to be wiped out. In 2010, India and Nigeria – historically the toughest challenges to eradication – cut cases by 95 percent each. However, until eradicated, polio remains a threat to children everywhere.
The new contributions build on the progress to date in bringing polio close to eradication, due in no small part to the leadership of Rotary International. Both Mr Cameron and Mr Gates paid tribute to Rotarians, who will have contributed nearly US$ 1.1 billion to polio eradication.
Prime Minister Cameron said: “I passionately believe that we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rid the world of the evil of polio. We have the vaccines and the tools to do it. All that’s missing is real and sustained political will to see this effort through to the end.”
The contribution from the UK is structured as a matching grant, to broaden the support base for polio eradication. For every $5 pledged by others from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2012, the UK will increase its support by $1 up to a maximum of the additional £40m announced.
Full press release and blog from Andrew Mitchell, UK International Development Secretary.
UN Secretary General recognizes polio workers and volunteers
Birmingham, UK – In the final push to rid the world of a crippling and potentially fatal disease, Rotary International today announced that it has raised US$ 90.7 million toward its US$ 200 Million Challenge, a fundraising effort supporting crucial polio eradication activities.
The announcement came at the Rotary International Convention, where UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was presented with a Polio Eradication Champion award, which he dedicated to polio workers who were killed last year in Afghanistan.