In October 2023 the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new financing partnership to address “critical global health opportunities”. WHO and UNICEF are implementing partners for polio funding and will use the resources to “eradicate polio”, support the distribution of other childhood immunisations, and “strengthen health systems” in preparation for emerging health threats.  

Eradication goals 

The package is expected to be worth 1.1 billion with the goal of supporting the eradication of polio. This could be the “second time in history” that a human disease is eradicated. It would alleviate the health and development challenges experienced by the “world’s most vulnerable” who “otherwise do not get fair access to healthcare services and innovations”. Wild poliovirus is endemic is “just two countries”, Pakistan and Afghanistan, with 80% of variant poliovirus cases found in “just four subnational regions”.  

Ursula von der Leyen is President of the European Commission and believes that we are nearing the “final stretch”.  

“We are about to wipe polio off the face of the Earth.” 

President von der Leyen suggested that “global cooperation” has helped us “put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic” and looks forward to getting “rid” of polio “once and for all”.  

“We will invest in stronger health systems globally and local vaccines and medicines production, manufacturing, and administration, where it is most needed.” 

President of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, agrees that “we are united to write the final chapter in the history of polio”. President Hoyer states that the bank is “playing its part” in the “unique partnership” by providing EUR 500 million in support of the Global Polio Eradication Programme.  

“This initiative will be a milestone in scaling up immunisation and strengthening healthcare, ensuring that every child, regardless of their circumstances, can be protected against polio”.  
Vaccinations and vital services 

WHO states that the partnership aims to deliver €500 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to cover polio vaccinations for nearly 370 million children every year. Furthermore, “vital health services” will be delivered to children alongside the polio campaigns, such as measles and other routine immunisations. The funding will also strengthen health systems against emerging health threats.  

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation is “optimistic” that we will eradicate polio “once and for all”. 

“Thanks to medical innovations, the world eradicated one human disease – smallpox.”
 
“I am committed to ensuring that no child, anywhere in the world, faces [polio].” 

Alongside the €500 an additional €500 will “expand the innovation capacity” of health systems in low- and middle-income countries. Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation emphasised that this partnership should ensure that “medicines and other life-saving innovations” reach “the people who need them most”.  

“We know that when a community is healthy, economies grow.” 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, emphasised the importance of reaching un- or under-vaccinated children in “finishing the job of polio eradication.  

“These new funds will not only help to drive us towards a polio-free world but will also help to build more sustainable and resilient health systems to protect the same children and communities who are at risk of polio against the many other health threats they face.”  

UNICEF’s Executive Director Catherine Russell demands “laser” focus to achieve progress. 

“This new funding will help ensure that all children get vaccinated to eradicate polio, while strengthening community-based health systems. No child should suffer from an easily preventable disease.”  

Joining us next week at the Congress in Barcelona is Ajoy Chakrabati of the Gates Foundation for a session on a “portfolio” of vaccines for polio eradication. Do join us there or subscribe to our newsletter for more.