Ethiopia joins over 130 countries to introduce Inactivated Polio Virus (IPV) vaccine against poliomyelitis.
The introduction of IPV in Ethiopia yesterday, 15 December 2015, at national level is an important occasion for the country as well as partner organizations. The IPV introduction is the largest globally coordinated vaccine introduction in history. A number of partner organizations, including the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), UNICEF, WHO and others as well as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative worked tirelessly to accelerate the eradication of the polio virus and maximize childhood immunity against poliomyelitis. Ethiopia has been free of the wild-polio virus type-1 (WPV1) for the last 23 months. The introduction of IPV in Ethiopia is a step forward towards global polio eradication efforts, offering additional protection to the current oral polio vaccine (OPV). “Ethiopia has been effectively polio-free for two years. This can be attributed to the unwavering political commitment, robust primary health care platform and strong regional and international partnerships,” said Dr Kebede Worku, Ethiopian State Minister of Health, “Today's introduction of IPV signifies a surging momentum for a lasting polio-free Ethiopia. We should strengthen our health and community systems so that no child will be left unvaccinated. I have a firm belief that we can relegate polio to the footnote of the history of vaccine-preventable diseases.” Combining IPV and OPV provides stronger protection against polio. The IPV will help provide additional protection to children against polio disease — and will give the child the benefits of both vaccines. IPV strengthens immunity in the blood while OPV strengthens immunity in the gut. New evidence clearly demonstrates that adding one dose of IPV to multiple doses of OPV is the most effective method available to protect children against the polio virus. The IPV, which is administered by injection, will be introduced into routine immunization programs in over 100 countries worldwide by the end of 2015. “Polio remains a threat as long as there are cases anywhere in the world. By supporting IPV and helping countries strengthen their routine immunisation systems, Gavi is contributing to the tremendous partnership that aims to rid the world of this disease once and for all,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, “Ethiopia's introduction of IPV with Gavi support marks an important moment in the global effort to secure a polio-free future.” Until now, OPV has been the primary tool in the global polio eradication effort, and has reduced the global incidence of the disease by more than 99 percent thanks to its unique ability to stop person-to-person spread of the virus. “Today's introduction of IPV as part of the routine immunization schedule in Ethiopia is very critical not only to keep Ethiopia polio free, but also to build up the success that Africa attained recently — for the first time in history being free of polio for more than a year,” said Dr Paul Mainuka, acting WHO Representative for Ethiopia. “UNICEF congratulates Ethiopia on the introduction of IPV. The country is on the right track towards polio eradication by introducing new strategies into the routine immunization programme to ensure all children and families are afforded the greatest protection available against vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio,” said Gillian Mellsop, Country Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia. Since inception of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, there has been a reduction of polio cases from more than 350,000 to 416 cases in 2014. Despite this progress, experts caution that polio-free countries still remain at risk of re-infection until the disease has been eradicated everywhere. Adding IPV to OPV in routine immunization schedules globally offers additional protection to all populations against a possible polio outbreak in the future. The universal introduction of IPV is part of a global plan to eradicate polio and secure the gains made against the disease through stronger immunization systems. The plan also calls for the eventual removal of OPV following the eradication of the remaining strains of poliovirus transmission, due to the very low risk of potential vaccine-associated cases. The switch from withdrawal of trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) to exclusive use of bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) comes first, as part of the switch, before the withdrawal. The Government of Ethiopia continues with its commitment to eradicate polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases from the country. The introduction of the IPV is an important step towards achieving a country free from vaccine-preventable diseases.