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Role of research in new Strategic Plan

In 2008, the World Health Assembly (WHA) recognized that the long-established polio eradication tactics that had eliminated poliovirus in all but four countries were not working in the remaining four endemic countries and called for a new strategy to eradicate the virus in these remaining reservoirs. In 2009, a special one-year Programme of Work was developed, introducing tactical innovations, new vaccine formulations and facilitating an independent evaluation of the major barriers to interrupting poliovirus transmission. These key initiatives informed the new Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Strategic Plan 2010-2012, which was endorsed by the WHA in 2010, and publicly launched by stakeholders at a special meeting convened by World Health Organization Director-General Dr Margaret Chan and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake on 18 June 2010.

To ensure international oversight of the new strategies, an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has been established. On a quarterly basis, the IMB will track tangible progress against the global milestones of the Strategic Plan and guide mid-course corrections, as needed. The IMB convened for the first time in December 2010.

This process will be underpinned by an expanded programme of research. Research will play a key role in evaluating the programmatic benefits of the new bivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (bivalent OPV) in improving population immunity; assess programme performance through measuring population immunity levels in key reservoir areas; better track the evolving epidemiology of transmission; assess and improve the quality of supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) and the related monitoring efforts; and, evaluate new tools and strategies to predict and stop outbreaks and limit new international spread of virus.

This issue of Polio Pipeline provides an in-depth look at the role research will play in helping to assess progress and to come up with new ways to further sensitize strategic approaches.