Objective To explore the extent to which undervaccinated subpopulations may influence the confidence about no circulation of wild poliovirus (WPV) after the last detected case.
Design and participants We used a hypothetical model to examine the extent to which the existence of an undervaccinated subpopulation influences the confidence about no WPV circulation after the last detected case as a function of different characteristics of the subpopulation (eg, size, extent of isolation). We also used the hypothetical population model to inform the bounds on the maximum possible time required to reach high confidence about no circulation in a completely isolated and unvaccinated subpopulation starting either at the endemic equilibrium or with a single infection in an entirely susceptible population.
Results It may take over 3 years to reach 95% confidence about no circulation for this hypothetical population despite high surveillance sensitivity and high vaccination coverage in the surrounding general population if: (1) ability to detect cases in the undervaccinated subpopulation remains exceedingly small, (2) the undervaccinated subpopulation remains small and highly isolated from the general population and (3) the coverage in the undervaccinated subpopulation remains very close to the minimum needed to eradicate. Fully-isolated hypothetical populations of 4000 people or less cannot sustain endemic transmission for more than 5 years, with at least 20 000 people required for a 50% chance of at least 5 years of sustained transmission in a population without seasonality that starts at the endemic equilibrium. Notably, however, the population size required for persistent transmission increases significantly for realistic populations that include some vaccination and seasonality and/or that do not begin at the endemic equilibrium.
Conclusions Significant trade-offs remain inherent in global polio certification decisions, which underscore the need for making and valuing investments to maximise population immunity and surveillance quality in all remaining possible WPV reservoirs.
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Patient consent for publication Not required.
Contributors All authors contributed to the study design, model development, interpretation of results, manuscript writing and revisions. RJDT and DAK performed the modelling and analyses and KMT secured the funding for the study.
Funding This work was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [OPP1129391].
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement Technical appendix available on request from the authors.
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