Member States guide direction of polio transition post-2023

    At WHO’s 152nd Executive Board meeting, Member States provided guidance to shape the next stage of polio transition and underlined their continued commitment to integrating the tools and expertise established for polio eradication to strengthen national health systems.  

    Since the Strategic Action Plan for Polio Transition 2018 – 2023 was presented to the World Health Assembly in 2017, significant progress has been made. Several countries, such as India, have successfully transitioned their polio programmes to serve broader public health, whilst in other countries, such as Sudan, the introduction of multidisciplinary Integrated Public Health Teams have offered an innovative path to repurpose the skills of the polio network. In 2022, “proof of concept” for transition was further demonstrated through the successful transition of over 50 low-risk countries from Global Polio Eradication Initiative support.  

    Building upon this progress, 2023 will see the development of a new global vision for polio transition, underpinned by tailored regional action plans and a revised monitoring and evaluation framework. The aim is to ensure that transition remains responsive to changes in global, regional and country health contexts, as well as lessons learned.  

    During the 152nd Executive Board, Member States proposed that the global vision and regional action plans focus on transitioning polio assets to strengthen essential immunization, sustain high quality sensitive surveillance systems, and bolster health security. The United Kingdom noted the need to align efforts with broader primary healthcare approaches, whilst the United States of America noted that robust surveillance is critical to maintain a polio-free world.  

    Countries including Paraguay and India emphasized that one of the focus areas of post-2023 transition vision should be to reach vulnerable populations, with a particular focus on more than 25 million ‘zero-dose children’, who have never received vaccine doses. Yemen noted that many of these children live in areas with protracted polio outbreaks. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a backsliding in routine immunization rates worldwide, resulting in a global call to action to reach under-served communities.  

    Member States additionally called for the work of integrating polio functions with the essential immunization system to be accelerated, to help achieve eradication in the most challenging geographies, and to lay the groundwork to prevent a resurgence of poliovirus.  

    The Director of the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, spoke on behalf of WHO’s six Regional Offices, noting, “There is a strong commitment to maintaining polio essential functions across all Regions, which will ensure that the significant investment is not lost as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative draws down. This is critical to maintain a polio-free world.” 

    Success will rely on the collective commitment of national governments, WHO, partners and donors, including to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of transitioned functions. 

    Thanking Member States, the WHO Deputy Director General, Dr Zsusanna Jakab, said, “We have an invaluable opportunity to position transition within an evolving global health landscape. An important lesson learned is that one size does not fit all – transition must be more nuanced, flexible and context specific.” 

    “The global vision… will align transition efforts with the evolving global health agenda, including efforts for pandemic preparedness, integrated disease surveillance and health systems recovery and resilience.” 

    This was the first opportunity for Member States to offer guidance related to the new vision and regional action plans. In the months ahead, WHO will convene multiple stakeholders at the global, regional and country level, to develop a common post-2023 vision, supported by regional action plans, to help realize strong and resilient health systems.  


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