World Polio Day 2022: Joint statement by Commissioners Stella Kyriakides, Jutta Urpilainen, and Director of ECDC Dr Andrea Ammon


World Polio Day is commemorated on 24 October. Thanks to vaccination the EU has been polio-free for the past 20 years, but recent developments show that it remains an international health threat.

Tomorrow, 24 October, is World Polio Day. To mark this occasion, Commissioners for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, and the Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Dr Andrea Ammon, made the following statement:

“Polio remains an international health threat. It is a threat that we can tackle, and we have the preventive tool for. The EU has remained polio-free for 20 years thanks to the broad vaccination we have achieved against it. But the recent discovery of vaccine-derived poliovirus and a case of paralytic polio in Europe and the United States are stark reminders that we must remain vigilant.

As long as non-vaccinated or under-vaccinated population groups in European countries remain, we run the risk that the virus will reappear in Europe. Polio can cause paralysis and have dire health consequences. To limit the risk of reintroduction and the sustained transmission of this highly infectious disease, it is essential to maintain high vaccination coverage at EU level in the general population and increase vaccine uptake in pockets of under-immunised populations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our health prevention routines. Coupled with mis- and disinformation on the importance of vaccination, many children have unfortunately missed out on life-saving vaccination.

Therefore, and to get ahead of any potential re-emergence of polio, we invite Member States to review their vaccination coverage data and address any immunity gaps in their population. We call also on Member States to ensure that surveillance systems are in place to identify virus circulation.

Globally, we must continue our work to eradicate polio once and for all, by closing the gaps where it is still endemic, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Commission is supporting global eradication efforts by strengthening immunisation systems and supporting vaccination. In the last years, the EU has mobilised €110 million to fight polio in most affected countries, including Afghanistan, and in cooperation with international partners such as UNICEF, WHO and Gavi.

Until polio is eradicated worldwide, no one is safe. On this World Polio Day, we call on everyone who is not vaccinated, or whose children have missed their scheduled vaccinations, to seek immunisation as soon as possible. Vaccination saves lives”.

More information on polio and vaccinations