Polio fight gets boost at 1st Global Vaccine Summit

A child receives polio vaccination in Afghanistan. Photo by: Global Polio Eradication Initiative

Pledges poured in for a new plan aimed at ending polio by 2018 at the just-concluded Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi. The largest: $1.7 billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

New pledges topped $3.75 billion, almost 70 percent of the $5.5 billion needed over the next six years. Add to that is the $298.69 million pledged earlier this year.

The Gates Foundation and others have been intensifying their campaign to eradicate polio in recent years. Bill Gates, who attended this week’s donor summit, has said: “Polio is the thing I’m spending the majority of my time on. It’s our number one priority at the foundation.”

Pledges came from a wide range of actors: governments, U.N. agencies, charities, foundations and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank Investment Partnership. Some of the biggest donations came from the United Kingdom ($457 million), Canada ($219 million), the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi ($120 million), Bloomberg Philanthropies ($100 million) and Carlos Slim Foundation ($100 million).

The funds will be used to achieve four main objectives:

  1. End all wild poliovirus transmissions by 2014, with a focus on the three polio-endemic countries of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

  2. Strengthen countries’ immunization systems and begin the withdrawal of oral polio vaccine by 2020. Focus countries will be the the three mentioned above, as well as Angola, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Somalia and South Sudan.

  3. Certify polio-free regions and ensure all poliovirus stocks are contained by 2018. The World Health Organization will need to set up regional certification commissions in six regions to ensure its implementation.

  4. Ensure a permanent, polio-free world.

A monitoring framework will be set up to assess progress against these four objectives.

Funding will be channeled in different ways, WHO’s Sona Bari told Devex from Abu Dhabi. But it will largely go through the WHO and UNICEF, which are among the parties that spearhead the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Activities that will be funded under the plan include vaccine procurement, surveillance and immunization operations.

Polio eradication was the “first milestone” in the global vaccines action plan, and thus the focus of the first Global Vaccine Summit, Bari said.

“In the global vaccine action plan, we looked at what’s the trailblazer in immunization coverage … and it’s the polio program,” she added.

Bari said the pledges will need consistent followup from donors. One opportunity: the upcoming World Health Assembly.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that we have to hold donors accountable,” Bari said. “But we have to hold the program accountable as well.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.