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world immunisation week: invest to end polio

Polio is a debilitating yet preventable viral disease that has been 99.9% eradicated from the planet, saving millions of lives. Yet with the disruption of vaccination campaigns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, political tensions, and the spread of misinformation about vaccines, a rise in polio cases has been seen across the globe. Without continued investment in immunisation programmes, polio could easily make a comeback and progress could quickly be reversed. World Immunisation Week (24-30 April) is therefore an important moment to ask the UK Government to renew its efforts towards ending polio for good.

The world is close to eradicating polio forever, but cases are increasing again

The UK must invest £100 million in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to help get back on track and eradicate polio for good

Write to the Development Minister Andrew Mitchell MP to explain why investment in polio vaccination matters

what’s happening?

Poliovirus (polio) is a debilitating disease of childhood, causing death or lifelong disability. Incredibly, polio has been 99.9% eradicated from the planet in recent decades, and is now only endemic (in the environment) in two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where eradication of the disease is considered ‘tantalisingly close’. But it is highly contagious, and until poliovirus transmission is interrupted, all countries remain at risk of importing polio, especially vulnerable countries with weak public health and immunisation services.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted polio vaccination campaigns, and new cases have been seen all over the world. Without renewed efforts, we could see polio make a comeback, risking thousands of lives every year. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is an international partnership that plays a vital role in the fight to end polio. It has a strategy to combat this risk, and additional investment is needed now from international donors such as the UK to help make this a reality.

how you can make a difference

This World Immunisation Week (24-30 April) is a good moment to ask the UK Government to invest £100 million in GPEI for the period 2025-26.

  • Please write to the Development Minister Andrew Mitchell MP, asking the UK Government to commit £100 million to GPEI for the period 2025-26
  • Correspondence address: Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister of State for Development and Africa, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH. Email [email protected]
  • Please copy in your constituency MP, so that they can add their own voice to the call for increased funding for polio eradication this World Immunisation Week. Find out their contact details here.
  • Share this action with your networks on social media or in the media using these key messages.

From her first polio vaccination campaign in 1997 to the present day, the National Expanded Program on Immunization Manager for Angola, Dr. Alda De Sousa, has never lost her passion for increasing access to immunisation. After registering a last case of indigenous wild poliovirus in September 2001, Angola recorded four successive outbreaks imported from India and Congo. Dr. De Sousa remembers that this caused many people to doubt that the eradication of polio would ever be possible. After years of work, Angola finally received wild polio-free status in November 2015. Dr. De Sousa describes it as her proudest moment.

In 2019, Angola’s immunisation team faced a new challenge when the polio programme detected an outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived polio type 2, a type of polio that emerges in places with low immunity. Dr. De Sousa again found herself at the forefront of the action. In July 2020, Angola held its first polio campaign after a pause on vaccination activities in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1.2 million children were reached by over 4000 vaccinators. Read more about Dr. De Sousa’s story on the GPEI website.

Women Leaders In Polio Eradication Dr. Alda Morais Pedro De Sousa 576x1024 1
Dr. De Sousa speaks to a community member in Angola. Image: GPEI
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