January 2022: Countries continue to leverage polio campaign expertise for COVID-19

Countries with experienced polio eradication workforces have continued to leverage their expertise–in  areas including vaccine logistics, social mobilization, surveillance, training, and data management–for the Covid-19 response, according to WHO. In the WHO Africa region, over 500 polio eradication staff assisted with coronavirus vaccine rollout in 2021: 39% of that workforce reported spending between 20%-50% of their time on Covid-19 vaccination efforts, while another 37% reported dedicating more than 50% of their time. Staff balanced this work with polio campaigns, which resumed after postponements dating to the early stages of the pandemic. Some highlights of the integrated efforts include:

  • Nigeria: Cross River state integrated Covid-19 vaccination into its polio campaign structure, reaching parents of children receiving nOPV2 drops to reduce the number of visits families needed to make to health facilities.
  • Bangladesh: Polio and measles campaign microplans were used to conduct a successful pilot of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
  • South-East Asian Region: Integrated immunization and surveillance networks used their experience of introducing new vaccines, including IPV, to help coordinate effective rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations in different contexts.
  • In many countries, the polio workforce has supported collecting data on Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) for Covid-19.

Per WHO, these efforts demonstrate the potential of the polio workforce to continue to support health systems after the transition of polio assets, by leveraging their skills and reach in an integrated manner to advance health priorities, especially in the areas of immunization campaigns, vaccine-preventable disease surveillance and emergency response. WHO; GPEI

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