World leaders and philanthropic organizations announced more than $2.6 billion in pledges for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) on Tuesday. 

Co-hosted by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) at the World Health Summit in Berlin, the pledging moment was held to address dire funding gaps in GPEI’s 2022-2026 Strategy to end polio.

The GPEI is a public-private partnership that was created with the end goal of eradicating polio globally. It is led by world governments and six philanthropic partners: the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The newly-announced pledges will support GPEI’s efforts to overcome obstacles to polio eradication, increase vaccine access, and continue disease surveillance across 50 countries.

“No place is safe until polio has been eradicated everywhere. As long as the virus still exists somewhere in the world, it can spread — including in our own country. We now have a realistic chance to eradicate polio completely, and we want to jointly seize that chance,” Svenja Schulze, Germany's federal minister for economic cooperation and development, said in a press release.

The number of wild poliovirus (WPV) cases have declined 99.9% worldwide since 1988 when the World Health Assembly first established the GPEI, but world events like the COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest have substantially set back opportunities to improve vaccine access. A recent rise in polio cases is primarily due to circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPVs), which are rare, mutated versions of the poliovirus found in under-immunized communities.

Wild poliovirus is endemic in just two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan — and outbreaks of cVDPV have recently been detected in the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

“The new detections of polio this year in previously polio-free countries are a stark reminder that if we do not deliver our goal of ending polio everywhere, it may resurge globally,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We are grateful for donors’ new and continued support for eradication, but there is further work to do to fully fund the 2022-2026 Strategy. We must remember the significant challenges we have overcome to get this far against polio, stay the course, and finish the job once and for all.”

GPEI’s 2022-2026 Strategy faced a funding gap of $4.8 billion ahead of the pledging moment. These funds are needed to implement prevention campaigns and treatment responses, which include expanding vaccine access.

The commitments announced on Tuesday will significantly decrease the gap. They include pledges from Australia (AU$43.55 million), France (50 million euros), Germany (72 million euros), Japan ($11 million), Luxembourg (1.7 million euros), the Republic of Korea (₩4.5 billion), Malta (30,000 euros), Monaco (450,000 euros), Spain (100,000 euros), Turkey ($20,000), the United States ($114 million), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($1.2 billion), Bloomberg Philanthropies ($50 million), Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America ($1.8 million), and Rotary International ($150 million).

In addition to the pledging moment, a group of more than 3,000 influential scientists, physicians, and public health experts from 115 countries released a declaration calling on donors to fully fund the 2022-2026 Strategy until polio is eradicated globally.

“Pakistan has made incredible progress against polio, but recent challenges have allowed the virus to persist,” Dr. Zulfi Bhutta, chair of child global health at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, said. “Polio, like any virus, knows no borders; its continued transmission threatens children everywhere. Stopping this disease is not just urgently needed now, it’s within our grasp. That’s why I’ve joined more than 3,000 health experts from around the world to launch the 2022 Scientific Declaration on Polio Eradication. With strong financial and political commitments, our long-awaited vision of a polio-free world can become a reality.”

The declaration outlines new tactics that GPEI will be able to undertake with the additional funding, such as increasing access to the novel oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2) to better address outbreaks of cVDPV2.

GPEI estimates that if its strategy is fully funded, it will result in $33.1 billion in health cost savings this century compared to the price of controlling outbreaks, and that it will be able to vaccinate 370 million children annually over the next five years.


Defeat Poverty

World Leaders Pledge $2.6 Billion to End Polio at the World Health Summit

By Jaxx Artz