The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization (SAGE) convened by WHO on 20 October 2015 has confirmed that the globally coordinated withdrawal of the type 2 component in the oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) will take place in April 2016.
SAGE’s landmark decision follows the endorsement by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2015, when Ministers of Health from 194 member states adopted a resolution on the global effort to eradicate polio, as part of the Polio Endgame Strategy.
In a milestone towards the switch, wild poliovirus (WPV) type 2 was recently declared as eradicated worldwide. WPV type 3 has not been detected globally since November 2012, and the only remaining endemic WPV type 1 strains are now restricted to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The globally synchronized switch is therefore of great significance for the polio eradication programme with tremendous public health benefits.
Countries have already demonstrated an exceptional level of commitment to meeting the timelines of the Polio Endgame. In the lead-up to April 2016, countries should begin to intensify their preparations to be ready to switch nationwide from trivalent oral polio vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent OPV (bOPV) on any one day in the window from 17 April to 1 May 2016.
It is also critical that countries meet established deadlines to protect populations by moving the world towards destruction of WPV2 type 2 stocks or their appropriate containment in designated ‘poliovirus essential’ facilities. The requirements for containment are detailed in the Global Action Plan III and steps for countries are summarized here.
For more information on the OPV switch and reference materials to guide switch implementation, communications, training, and monitoring, please consult the OPV switch section on the Polio Endgame objective 2 website.