Maintaining polio-free status of European Region as part of the global polio Endgame Strategy

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious and sometimes fatal disease, which invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis in a matter of hours. The disease usually affects children under 5 years of age.

In June 2002, all 53 countries in the WHO European Region were certified polio free: a notable success. Since certification, more than 90 million infants across the Region have received the recommended three doses of polio vaccine. National and regional surveillance systems and laboratories have ensured that no polio case could have been left undetected. Today, although the Region has experienced several episodes of wild poliovirus importation, a sustained effort of immunization and disease surveillance helps maintain the Region's polio-free status. 

WHO/Europe supports Member States by coordinating and monitoring surveillance and immunization activities, providing guidance and helping to ensure political commitment.

Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018

On 26 May 2012, the World Health Assembly called for the development of a comprehensive strategy to achieve a polio-free world by 2018. In response, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), (spearheaded in part by WHO) in consultation with national health authorities, global health initiatives, scientific experts, donors and other stakeholders developed the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018. The Plan lays out steps for the eradication of all polio disease, whether caused by wild poliovirus or circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, and for the use of established structures to deliver other health services in the wake of eradication.

The plan has four objectives:

  • to detect and interrupt all poliovirus transmission;
  • to strengthen immunization systems and withdraw oral polio vaccines;
  • to contain poliovirus and certify interruption of transmission; and
  • to plan polio's legacy.