People may think of polio as a disease that has been eradicated, like smallpox, but that is not the case.
Last year, there were 441 reported polio cases worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the last-known case of the crippling disease in the United States was in 1979, the CDC recommends that all children should receive a series of four polio shots.
“No country is safe from polio until the virus has been eradicated globally,” says the World Health Organization.
Ecuador last month launched a national campaign to inoculate infants against polio, but it ran short of the vaccine doses needed.
Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health issued an international appeal for polio vaccine to organizations including Direct Relief and nations including Mexico.
In its communication to Direct Relief, the Ministry warned of “a critical shortage of basic vaccines” as a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ecuador requested 95,000 doses of the polio vaccine and 138,000 doses of other vaccines commonly given to children.
The Government of Mexico responded to the appeal, offering to donate the polio vaccine from its stockpile at the national vaccine agency BIRMEX.
To transport the humanitarian aid, Mexico’s government turned to Direct Relief, which is registered as a civil association in Mexico with tax-deductible status (Donataria Autorizada).
Like most vaccines, the polio vaccine is a cold-chain medication; it must be kept refrigerated at all times to between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, delivered in special containers, with the temperature monitored.
Pharmaceutical distributors—and Direct Relief—are among the only organizations with cold-chain vaccine shipment capability.
Direct Relief has extensive experience working with the world’s largest medical manufacturers to distribute cold-chain prescription medications connected with humanitarian and emergency-response efforts.
In 2020, Direct Relief completed 1,953 cold-chain deliveries of such products, managing end-to-end distribution to health facilities across the United States and 52 other countries. Deliveries contained 21.6 million doses of temperature-sensitive medications, including insulin, cancer drugs, hemophilia treatments, vaccines, and biologic therapies for patients with rare genetic diseases.
Direct Relief’s Mexico office managed the complex customs procedures. Its logistics partner Kuehne + Nagel packed the vaccine and flew them to Ecuador while maintaining cold-chain integrity. The 95,000 doses of bivalent oral polio vaccine landed last week at Quito International Airport.
“With this donation, Mexico joins the noble cause of the Strategic Plan of the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate polio in the world,” Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.