Risk Management in a Polio-Free World
Inherent in the decision to launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988 was the expectation for many people that immunization against poliomyelitis would eventually simply stop, as had been the case with smallpox following its eradication in 1977. However, the strategies for managing the risks associated with a "polio-free" world must be continuously refined to reflect new developments, particularly in our understanding of the live polioviruses in the oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) and in the international approach to managing potential biohazards. The most important of these developments has been the confirmation in 2000 that vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPVs) can circulate and cause polio outbreaks, making the use of OPV after interruption of wild poliovirus transmission incompatible with a polio-free world. A comprehensive strategy has been developed to minimize the risks associated with eventual OPV cessation, centered on appropriate long-term biocontainment of poliovirus stocks (whether for vaccine production, diagnosis, or research), the controlled reintroduction of any live poliovirus vaccine (i.e., from an OPV stockpile), and appropriate use of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV). Although some aspects of this risk management strategy are still debated, there is wide agreement that no strategy would entirely eliminate the potential risks to a polio-free world. The current strategy for risk management in a polio-free world will continue to evolve with better characterization of these risks and the development of more effective approaches both to reduce those risks and to limit their consequences should they occur.