Certification of the Region’s polio-free status in 2002

The WHO European Region overcame great challenges to celebrate reaching polio-free status in 2002. To be certified, the Region had to demonstrate:

  • at least three years of zero polio cases due to indigenous wild poliovirus;
  • excellent surveillance; and
  • capacity of each country to detect, report and respond to imported polio cases.

The fifteenth meeting of the European Regional Commission for the Certification of the Eradication of Poliomyelitis (RCC) was held at the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark on 19–21 June 2002.

In this unique meeting, the RCC scrutinized national documents prepared by all (then) 51Member States of the Region in order to make an historic decision: to certify the European Region of WHO as “poliomyelitis free”. The objectives of the meeting were to assess progress made towards certification of poliovirus eradication in the European Region, to discuss ongoing activities for the post-certification period (that is, strengthening immunization services, polio surveillance and the regional polio laboratory network), and to brief Member States on the regional and global situation regarding polio eradication.

The RCC meeting consisted of two plenary and four private sessions. Certification was based on the examination of detailed scientific data provided by each country and supplemented by WHO assessment missions, with an emphasis on national poliovirus surveillance. Each National Certification Committee (NCC) provided an official statement summarizing the evidence that their country had been free from indigenous wild poliovirus transmission for the previous three years. In addition, 16 countries made special presentations to the Commission during the meeting.

Based on careful consideration of all of the evidence presented, the RCC concluded that the transmission of wild poliovirus had been interrupted in all 51 Member States of the European Region and, on 21 June 2002, the Commission certified the European Region as poliomyelitis free. The RCC emphasized that, until global polio eradication has been achieved, importation of wild poliovirus from polio-endemic regions is possible and therefore each Member State and WHO must sustain the highest levels of polio immunization and surveillance.