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WHO - World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia

01/13/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/13/2021 06:46

Marking a decade since last polio case: WHO SEAR countries gear up for massive vaccination campaign – this time for COVID-19 virus

SEAR/PR/1750

New Delhi; 13 January 2021 - On this day in 2011, WHO South-East Asia Region reported its last case of wild poliovirus from West Bengal in India. A decade later, countries in the Region are gearing up for massive vaccination campaigns, taking lessons from polio program, but surpassing its scale and size in a bid to end COVID-19 pandemic.

'We are witnessing unprecedented efforts by Member countries to protect their vulnerable population against COVID-19 with vaccines,' said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.

Indonesia rolled out COVID-19 vaccination today, while preparations are in full swing in India for one of the world's biggest vaccination programme beginning 16 January, and in other countries for their campaign in the coming months.

Safe and effective vaccines can be a gamechanger if accessible across the world and to all vulnerable population within the countries.

Vaccines will help to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they won't solve everything by themselves as initially they are bound to be in limited supplies. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, we still need to continue to take all necessary measures - COVID appropriate behavior by one and all - masks, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, physical distancing - and core public health measures by the authorities - detect, test, trace, isolate and treat - to prevent the virus from spreading and causing more disease and deaths.

Community engagement and participation - both for continued COVID-19 appropriate behavior and vaccination - will be critical to curtail the virus transmission.

WHO continues to work with all countries for COVID-19 vaccination planning and roll out, to have a robust National Deployment and Vaccination Plan covering all elements of planning and management needed to deliver a vaccine.

The network of surveillance officers in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal, which was the backbone of polio eradication programme, is now also in the forefront supporting coordination, preparedness and roll out of COVID-19 vaccination down to the district level.

Bringing in best practices from polio eradication, WHO has supported countries in the Region with development of operational guidelines and plans for COVID-19 vaccination; training of vaccinators; planning vaccine and logistics management; and monitoring key preparatory activities.

At the global level, the ACT-Accelerator partnership launched by WHO and partners, has supported the fastest, most coordinated, and successful global effort in history to develop tools to fight COVID-19. The vaccine pillar - COVAX - co-led by WHO, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access.