Paralytic poliomyelitis was once endemic in the United States; however, because of high vaccination levels, the last case of wild disease occurred in 1979. Although worldwide polio eradication may be achieved in the near future, the presence of undervaccinated children in urban areas and among groups who refuse vaccination creates an outbreak risk, should importation of wild virus occur. In 1999, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) be used for routine immunization of the US population and that oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) be reserved for “mass vaccination campaigns to control outbreaks of paralytic polio.” Subsequently, the sole US manufacturer of OPV withdrew from the market. In 2003, a joint National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC)/ACIP working group was charged with reporting to its parent bodies concerning the need for a poliovirus vaccine stockpile. Based on that working group’s report, the NVAC and ACIP have concluded that stockpiles of both IPV and OPV should be maintained. In the event of an outbreak in which OPV continues not to be available, IPV should be used for control, and a stockpile of 8 million doses seems to be sufficient. Should IPV be manufactured only in combination with other vaccines, appropriate procurement actions should be taken to ensure that uncombined IPV continues to be stockpiled. Under circumstances of diminished population immunity, OPV may offer outbreak control advantages. The NVAC and ACIP recommend that the United States collaborate with international agencies to provide guaranteed and rapid access to at least 8 million doses of trivalent OPV or 8 million doses of each of the 3 types of monovalent OPV. The regulatory and practical obstacles to implementation of this recommendation will require assertive facilitation at high levels of the federal government and careful planning at the state and local levels.
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