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Int’l community urged not to ‘forget’ polio eradication during COVID-19 crisis

By JT - Dec 06,2020 - Last updated at Dec 06,2020

AMMAN — The Global Health Development (GHD) and the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET) announced that they are following up closely with different international organisations and global agencies on status update on polio eradication and immunisation, which has been affected by COVID-19, according to a GHD/EMPHNET statement.

The follow up comes after noticing a “significant percentage” of workforce being shifted from surveillance and polio eradication to COVID-19 response efforts including contact tracing and testing. In addition, immunisation activities in many countries have been delayed or put on hold as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a recent report by Gavi (The Vaccine Alliance), 42 out of 68 Gavi-supported vaccine introductions and campaigns projected to take place in 2020, have been impacted due to COVID-19, with 39 confirmed delays and another three at risk of delay. Many of these vaccine activities are related to polio routine immunisation.

“In our battle against COVID-19, we should not forget another important virus; the polio virus and our battle and intensified efforts to eradicate it from the globe over the last three decades. We should consolidate our global efforts at the national, regional and global levels. We should not lose the momentum,” GHD/EMPHNET Public Health Director Magid Al Gunaid was quoted in the statement as saying.

These delays affect most countries who are combating Polio Wild Poliovirus Type-1 (WPV1); Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as countries with circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) outbreaks, the statement said.

GHD/EMPHNET calls on the international community to highlight the importance of supporting polio eradication activities during COVID-19 response, so to keep polio eradication as a top priority on the public health agenda, the statement said.

GHD is a regional initiative created to support countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and to strengthen their health systems to respond to public health challenges and threats. Serving as a collaborative platform, GHD/EMPHNET is dedicated to serve the region by supporting national efforts to promote public health policies, strategic planning, sustainable financing, resource mobilization, public health programs, and other related services, according to the statement.

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