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Vanuatu joins global switch to new vaccine in push to eradicate polio.

© UNICEF Pacific/2016/Sokhin

PORT VILA, 11 May, 2016 – When it was confirmed late last year that one of the three most common forms of polio had been permanently eradicated, global polio experts celebrated … and quickly returned to work.

The eradication of ‘Type 2’ polio means that a newer and more potent vaccine (targeting the two remaining strains of polio) can be used in the fight to permanently eradicate polio in all its forms.

In April this year Vanuatu joined 155 countries and territories around the world in the largest-ever vaccine roll out, introducing the new vaccine over a two-week period.

“This is the largest, fastest global vaccine switch in history” said Dr Jacob Kool, the Head of WHO’s Vanuatu country office. “We are closer than ever to eradicating polio in the world. Polio is a highly infectious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.” 

“The switch to the two-strain oral polio vaccine will bring Vanuatu in line with other countries around the world. This means that all children vaccinated after the switch will receive the bivalent oral polio vaccine.” said George Taleo, Director General of the Ministry of Health. 

UNICEF’s Chief of Vanuatu Field Office, Mr Andrew Parker said “Polio mainly affects children under five years of age. The switch to this new vaccine will provide better protection for children against polio, particularly those most vulnerable to infection. This means that parents who immunise their children can be more confident than ever that their children will be protected from harm.”

The switch to bivalent oral polio vaccine required immense coordination at national and provincial levels and was implemented in a synchronised manner by health workers across the country.


About Vanuatu Ministry of Health

The Vanuatu Ministry of Health is guided by the Health Sector strategy (HSS) (2010 – 2016).  The Health Sector Strategy 2010-2016 (HSS) defines our vision for the development of the health sector in the country. It is the principle reference for all actors working in the health sector and is coordinated with the Comprehensive Reform Program, the Priority Action Agenda and the policies developed for the specific public health programs. Good health for all and Primary Health Care remain fundamental aspects for the Ministry of Health. Apart from the preventive and curative services, other support services such as planning, Health Information System, Financial management and Human Resources Management and Development are key support services for the Ministry. Visit for more information about our work.

About WHO

The Regional Office for the Western Pacific, located in Manila, the Philippines, represents WHO in the Asia Pacific. Working together with a broad spectrum of partners from all sectors of society, WHO in the Western Pacific is involved in a host of closely related public health activities, including research, databanking, evaluation, awareness raising and resource mobilization. Our mission is to support all countries and peoples in their quest to achieve the highest attainable level of health, defined in the WHO Constitution as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Visit WHO country office supports the Vanuatu Ministry of Health with technical advice, funding and capacity building.


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and our work in the Pacific visit:

For more information please contact:

 John Tasserei, Ministry of Health on +678 22512 or 779 9570

Donna Hoerder, UNICEF on +679 3236 100 or

WHO, Country Liaison Office, PortVila, Vanuatu +678-27683. For technical consultation on Switch, contact Dr Achyut Shrestha.



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