Polio eradication programme continuity: implementation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic - Interim guide: May 2020 update

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What is new in the guide

On the 25th of March, the GPEI circulated the first update of the interim guide to help ensure continuity of the programme’s operations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its support to the pandemic response while also ensuring the safety of its personnel and the communities it works with.

Since then, new evidence has emerged about the characteristics of the pandemic that set pathways for more effective response and adaptation of essential health services and disease control/eradication initiatives such as polio eradication, measles/rubella elimination, and others. The GPEI, in collaboration with partners from other disease initiatives and immunization partners, developed guidance for the implementation of poliovirus surveillance and implementation of the outbreak response and preventive immunization campaigns.

This update synthesizes and references new evidence and recommendation to help orient the GPEI’s teams on how to best adapt and manage the polio eradication programme delivery to ensure its alignment with the public heath response to COVID-19 at national and sub-national levels, while conducting contextappropriate polio eradication activities.
More specifically, this update builds on the following technical and strategy documents:

  1. COVID-19 Strategy Update; 14 April 20201
  2. Guiding principles for immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  3. Interim guidance for the polio surveillance network in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  4. Guidance on implementation of mass vaccination campaigns. A framework for decision-making and Operational Guidance for Maintaining Essential Health Services that are in development jointly with the IVB and HIS teams

An important shift reflected in this edition of the guide is based on better recognition of the dynamics of the pandemic and the short-to-medium term objectives for COVID-19 control.

COVID-19 transmission will likely continue worldwide in multiple, often overlapping waves that will likely continue throughout 2020 and, possibly 2021 until sufficient immunity to the COVID-19 is built either through populations’ exposure to the virus or mass vaccination. Until that happens the countries will be aiming at achieving sustainable suppression of transmission at a low level whilst enabling elements of economic and social life.

This makes it imperative for the polio eradication teams at the country, regional and global levels to build and implement robust systems for context and programme monitoring, and to adapt the eradication service delivery strategies to effectively mitigate the polio transmission risks as well as building a platform for fullscale resumption of the polio eradication activities when the situation permits.

This guide explores ways to adapt the programme’s strategies to enable resumption and effective implementation of eradication activities in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. It promotes close coordination and, where feasible, integration of design, planning and delivery of polio eradication activities with essential immunization the COVID-19 response and delivery of other essential health services, such as essential immunization.