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Bull World Health Organ. Jan 2004; 82(1): 24–30.
Published online Feb 26, 2004.
PMCID: PMC2585869

Certification of polio eradication: process and lessons learned.


Since the 1988 World Health Assembly resolution to eradicate poliomyelitis, considerable progress has been made towards interrupting the transmission of wild poliovirus globally. A formal process for the certification of polio eradication was established on the basis of experience gained during smallpox eradication. Independent groups of experts were designated at the global, regional, and country levels to conduct the process. The main requirements for the global certification of the eradication of wild poliovirus are the absence of wild poliovirus, isolated from suspect polio cases, healthy individuals, or environmental samples, in all WHO regions for a period of at least three years in the presence of high-quality, certification-standard surveillance and the containment of all wild poliovirus stocks in laboratories. Three WHO regions--the Region of the Americas (1994), Western Pacific Region (2000), and European Region (2002)--have already been certified free of indigenous wild poliovirus. Eradication and certification activities are progressing well in the three endemic regions (African, Eastern Mediterranean, and South-East Asia). Several challenges remain for the certification of polio eradication: the need for even closer coordination of certification activities between WHO regions, the verification of laboratory containment, the development of an appropriate mechanism to verify the absence of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses in the future, and the maintenance of polio-free status in certified regions until global certification.

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