Health and Healthcare Systems

We are closer than ever to eradicating polio

A boy is administered vitamin A drops during a house-to-house anti-polio vaccination campaign in Sanaa, Yemen October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi - RC143E0E8740

WPV1 still circulates in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Image: REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Global Health

The World Health Organization formally certified the eradication of wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) on World Polio Day. It marks a major victory for global health efforts, including mass vaccination and leaves just one strain of the disease threatening adults and children.

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The last known case of WPV3 was confirmed in northern Nigeria in 2012. The WPV2 strain was declared officially eradicated in 2015.

The WHO says the eradication of WPV3 proves that a polio-free world is achievable. Professor David Salisbury, chair of the Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication, called for redoubled efforts to eliminate the remaining strain WPV1.

Trust is the key

Polio’s last refuge is in Pakistan and Afghanistan where WPV1 still circulates, in part due to ima lack of trust in immunization campaigns. Misinformation, harmful rumours, armed conflicts and insecurity have all hampered efforts to protect adults and children.

Among the concerns are the risk of vaccine-derived polio infections, which though very rare, still pose a threat in areas where poor sanitation persists. In September, the Philippines declared an outbreak following the confirmation of two cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus.

WHO says development efforts are a key component in eradicating infectious diseases.

Polio cases and immunisation rates.

It estimates that polio eradication efforts have saved the global economy more than $27 billion since 1988. A polio-free world will generate further $14 billion in savings by 2050, compared to the cost countries would incur in controlling the virus.

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What is Gavi?

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) was launched at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in 2000. The global organization brings together public and private sectors with the goal of creating equal access to vaccines for children in the poorest countries.

Gavi has played a leading role in tackling infectious diseases around the world. Last year Gavi-sponsored vaccines immunised 66 million children. Since 2016 Gavi has supported the vaccination of 198 million children worldwide.

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