Polio eradication will highlight the power of immunisation

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Statement by the GAVI Alliance on World Polio Day

World Polio Day - Nepal 2008

A social health activist administers drops of the oral polio vaccine to a child in April 2008 during a door-to-door immunisation effort in India. Source: Rotary International/2008.

Geneva, 24 October 2011 – Feared for centuries because of the death and paralysis it causes, polio is finally on the edge of eradication.

Since 1988 when global polio eradication efforts began, incidence has dropped 99% and the number of polio endemic countries has been reduced from 125 to 4. Today, an estimated eight million people are walking who would otherwise have lost their ability to walk. Parents, children, colleagues, friends – a generation has been saved.

But even as our colleagues in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are making the final push, we are seeing that eradication will be no pushover.

As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. In the past decade, polio has spread to over 20 polio-free countries.

But however difficult the task, we in the global community must finish it.

Vaccination has a critical role to play in polio eradication and countries with low immunisation coverage are most vulnerable to the transmission of wild polio virus. The four countries which still have endemic polio – Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India – are all a major focus of GAVI’s work.

But India, for example, was once an intense polio transmission zone but has seen no new cases of polio since January 2011.

The GAVI Alliance is delighted to support our colleagues at the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up in 1988 with Rotary’s extraordinary vision of a world that is free from polio.

Published last year, a recent study estimated that the polio eradication within the next five years could provide net benefits of at least US$ 40-50 billion. For families around the world, polio eradication also means lives saved and the prevention of devastating disability.

GAVI’s contribution to the fight against polio includes support for increasing routine immunisation coverage, which has risen to 79% of infants from 66% in 2000, together with a US$191 million investment for polio vaccine stockpile, eradication activities, and development of a monovalent oral polio vaccine.

Polio eradication will also highlight the enormous power of vaccines and immunisation and offer essential lessons to reduce more of the world’s most devastating diseases. 

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