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Seventieth World Health Assembly update, 25 May

News release

The World Health Assembly today made decisions relating to polio, the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, and the health workforce.

Polio

Delegates paid tribute to ongoing efforts to end polio transmission in the last three endemic countries - Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. They expressed concern about the continued shortage of inactivated poliovirus vaccine, and noted the urgent need to contain polioviruses in safe facilities, destroy unneeded materials, and appropriately contain resources that can be used for research or other purposes. This has become particularly important since the eradication of type 2 of the wild poliovirus in 2015.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988, following the adoption for a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio at the Forty-first World Health Assembly. Since then, the number of polio cases has fallen by over 99.9%. The initiative has also strengthened countries’ capacities to tackle other health issues, for example through better disease surveillance; immunization and health systems strengthening; early warning, emergency and outbreak response.

Delegates also addressed the challenge of scaling down the global polio response as eradication becomes closer, acknowledging the importance of developing a strategy to define the critical functions needed to sustain a polio-free world, as well as the global structures and financial requirements to support them. The development of this Post-eradication Certification Strategy is ongoing, and will be presented to the Executive Board and World Health Assembly next year.

Delegates welcomed efforts to plan for a post-polio world, including WHO’s organization-wide work to identify the key programmatic, financial, human resources and organizational risks associated with the eventual closure of the global polio eradication effort. They requested the Director-General to consider polio transition planning an urgent organizational priority and highlighted the need to ensure that polio transition needs are fully incorporated into the development of the next WHO budget and planning cycle.

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework

Delegates reaffirmed the critical role played by the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework’s (PIP) as a specialized international instrument that facilitates expeditious access to influenza viruses of human pandemic potential, risk analysis and the expeditious, fair and equitable sharing of vaccines and other benefits.

They emphasized the importance of prioritizing and supporting global pandemic influenza preparedness and response, including through the strengthening of domestic seasonal influenza virus surveillance, manufacturing and regulatory capacities and international coordination and collaboration through the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) to identify and share influenza viruses with pandemic potential rapidly.

The Health Assembly agreed that the WHO secretariat should comprehensively analyse, in consultation with Member States and relevant stakeholders, including the GISRS, the implications of amending the definition of PIP biological materials to include genetic sequence data and expanding the PIP Framework to include seasonal influenza. The delegates further agreed that the PIP Framework model has potential to be used for other pathogens.

The PIP Framework was set up in 2011 to introduce greater equity and solidarity among nations when the next pandemic strikes. The PIP Framework provides WHO with real-time access to approximately 10% of global vaccine production, enabling the Organization to send life-saving doses to developing countries in need.

Health Workforce

The Health Assembly agreed to a five-year action plan under which WHO will collaborate with the International Labour Organization, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in working with governments and key stakeholders to address the global health and social workforce shortfall and contribute to international efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The plan calls on countries to view the health and social workforce as an investment, rather than a cost, and take advantage of the economic benefits of growth in the health and social sector. It outlines how ILO, OECD and WHO will take intersectoral action on five fronts: galvanizing political support; strengthening data and evidence; transforming and scaling up the education, skills and decent jobs of health and social workers; increasing resources to build the health and social workforces; and maximizing the multiple benefits that can be obtained from international health worker mobility.

It also focuses on maximizing women’s economic empowerment and participation. It addresses occupational health and safety, protection and security of the health and social workforce in all settings. It also covers the reform of service models towards the efficient provision of care, particularly in underserved areas.

The action plan supports the WHO Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030. It will facilitate implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, which found that, as populations grow and change, the global demand for health workers will double by 2030.

For more information, please contact:

Ms Fadéla Chaib
WHO Department of Communications
Mobile: +41 79 475 5556
Email: chaibf@who.int

Mr Tarik Jasarevic
WHO Department of Communications
Mobile: +41 79 367 6214
Email: jasarevict@who.int

Mr Christian Lindmeier
WHO Department of Communications
Mobile: +41 79 500 6552
Email: lindmeierch@who.int