Polio vaccine switch and European Immunization Week in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


WHO, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the National Public Health Institute and the Public Health Centre in Skopje, held a workshop on 18 April 2016 to present and discuss WHO's guidance in globally replacing trivalent oral polio vaccine (OPV) with bivalent OPV by removing the type 2 component from immunization programmes.

The workshop also included presentations about vaccination coverage in the city of Skopje and countrywide for 2015, the use of polyvalent vaccines and activities related to European Immunization Week (24–30 April).

About 120 participants attended the workshop. They were mostly medical doctors working in immunization departments within health centres countrywide, and specialists in epidemiology from the National Public Health Institute and regional public health centres who are responsible for immunization, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Health and the State Sanitary Health Inspectorate.

Participants discussed the key challenges and actions related to:

  • the country's preparedness for the vaccine switch;
  • plans for the disposal of trivalent OPV after the switch and for monitoring the transition process, as well as risks and contingencies;
  • the need to improve the process of continuous education for immunization teams countrywide;
  • the importance of the exchange of data at national level to assess the vaccination status of the population; and
  • the need to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination and to counter anti-vaccination campaigns.

All health facilities in the country will stop using trivalent OPV on 25 April 2016 and have 2 weeks to complete the switch. Any remaining trivalent OPV stock must be collected and destroyed according to national guidance.

Celebration of European Immunization Week in the country will be dedicated to increasing awareness and commitment to close the remaining gaps in immunization and prevent future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Unprecedented global polio switch

Every country in the world that is currently using trivalent OPV (containing all 3 serotypes of poliovirus) will permanently withdraw this vaccine from their immunization programmes and activities on one appointed day in the 2-week period 17 April–1 May 2016.

These countries will replace the vaccine with bivalent OPV – containing only types 1 and 3 – or move to an immunization schedule with only the inactivated form of polio vaccine. 19 countries in the WHO European Region will participate in this unprecedented, globally synchronized vaccine switch.

Before the switch can take place, several criteria must be met. In addition to the official declaration that wild poliovirus type 2 has been eradicated globally, initial steps must have been taken to ensure global laboratory containment of poliovirus type 2. Moreover, each country must have:

  • introduced (or have a planned date to introduce) at least 1 dose of inactivated polio vaccine into their routine schedules;
  • licensed bivalent OPV and have it available for routine immunization; and
  • put in place surveillance and response protocols for possible type 2 poliovirus outbreaks.