On 22 October 2021, Ethiopia launched a polio vaccination campaign with type 2 novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV2) targeting over 17 million under-five children aiming to end the circulation of vaccine-derived poliovirus. The campaign was officially launched by the Ministry of Health and polio partners in Hawassa, Sidama, alongside the commemoration of World Polio Day with the theme, "One Day. One Focus: Ending Polio: Delivering on the promise of a polio-free world".
Speaking on behalf of WHO and UNICEF, Deputy WHO Representative in Ethiopia Dr Rose-Mary Nonhlanhla Dlamini underscored the need to ensure that every child everywhere in Ethiopia is vaccinated. She called on vaccinators to work with extra diligence, and on parents and caregivers to present their children for vaccinations.
During the event, Ms. Tsinukal Melkamu, a polio survivor shared her story of living with polio and expressed her hope that no other children will face the challenges she faced because of polio. Ms. Tsinukal was also presented with a letter of thanks from the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, for sharing her life experience at the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in August 2021.
In 2020, the WHO Africa Region was certified wild polio-free but vaccine-derived poliovirus still continues to circulate in under-served communities.
In a bid to ensure all forms of polio are eradicated, the GPEI has introduced the novel OPV type two (nOPV2) vaccine as a critical new tool in the fight against circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2).
With the launch of nOPV2 vaccine, Ethiopia joins five other frontrunner countries, Benin, Congo Republic, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone that have already introduced the vaccine.
State Minister of Health, Honorable Dr Dereje Duguma urged health workers, partners, religious leaders, parents, caregivers, and other stakeholders to support this campaign. "We each must do our part to ensure that all under-five children are vaccinated," He further reminded vaccinators and communities to be mindful of COVID-19 prevention measures as nOPV2 vaccines are being administered. WHO and UNICEF supported the government on the groundwork to fulfill the readiness criteria for nOPV2 introduction, and in planning this nationwide campaign including the development of all campaign preparedness and implementation tools and guidelines, providing budget and training on various aspects of the campaign and post-campaign activities and by deploying more than 100 technical experts to regions and zones to support monitoring and supervision during implementation of the campaign.
The Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF, and other polio partners reaffirmed their collective commitment to deliver on the promise of a polio-free Ethiopia and polio-free world for current and future generations.