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04.08.2016

The Switch: The Biggest Global Health Event You’ve Never Heard Of

A major global health event is set to take place this month. Between April 17 and May 1, 155 countries will withdraw one oral polio vaccine and roll out—or “switch to”—another. This synchronized vaccine switch is unprecedented in both its scale and its speed.
What It Is
Countries that are currently using the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to protect children from polio will switch from using the trivalent oral polio vaccine, which includes live, but weakened strains from all three types of poliovirus (types 1, 2, and 3) and is delivered via two liquid drops in the mouth, to a bivalent vaccine that is delivered in the same way but includes strains from just 2 types of poliovirus: types 1 and 3. The type 2 strains of the virus are being removed from the vaccine because this type has been declared eradicated, meaning that it is no longer in existence anywhere on earth.

Image courtesy Global Polio Eradication Initiative

Image courtesy Global Polio Eradication Initiative

What It Means
The switch demonstrates just how close we are to eradicating polio once and for all. We have already eradicated one type of the virus, and the last case of wild poliovirus type 3 was seen over 3 years ago. Additionally, by removing the type 2 strain from the vaccine, we are also removing the risk of this vaccine strain causing the rare instances of vaccine-derived polio that we’ve seen in the past. We are truly closing in on all aspects of this crippling disease.

How You Can Get Involved
Learn more: This is just a brief overview of the switch, but there is so much more! To learn more about polio vaccines, why the switch is necessary, and why it’s important to keep using oral polio vaccines until we eradicate polio, watch these short videos produced by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Advocate: Financing for the switch and for other crucial global health efforts wouldn’t be possible without people like you advocating for them and donating to the cause. We need your help to end this disease.

Tweet this:  We are so close to #endpolio.  Please support giving children around the world a @ShotatLife #vaccineswork

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  • Anne Marie is a Global Health Officer at the United Nations Foundation, working with the Shot@Life campaign on global immunization advocacy. She earned her Master of Public Health and a Graduate Certificate in Vaccine Science and Policy from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political...