Geneva, 24 October 2012 - There’s a lot to celebrate this World Polio Day. In all but three countries of the world, polio has been eradicated with the support of WHO and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. This year, fewer children (171) have been paralyzed by this crippling virus, in fewer parts of the world than ever before.
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 three countries which still have endemic polio – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – are all a major focus of GAVI’s work.
Alignment between polio eradication efforts and the GAVI Alliance efforts to strengthen routine immunisation is logical, critical and urgent for both the polio endgame and the legacy of polio eradication efforts
Dr Seth Berkley, GAVI CEO
Strong health systems and routine immunisation – and the resultant high population immunity – has always been an important base for polio eradication. However, in the final stages of eradication, routine immunization and its benefits have become even more essential to the success of polio eradication in order to interrupt the last chains of transmission among the most vulnerable, hard-to-reach and under-served communities, and to secure a polio-free world.
Polio eradication is at a pivotal point, and the three countries and partners supporting them are all in emergency mode. “Alignment between polio eradication efforts and the GAVI Alliance efforts to strengthen routine immunisation is logical, critical and urgent for both the polio endgame and the legacy of polio eradication efforts,” said Dr Seth Berkley, GAVI CEO.
As part of its fight against polio, GAVI has helped increase routine polio immunisation coverage in 73 countries - from 63% in 2000 to 76% of infants in 2011. To date, GAVI has invested US$191 million in a polio vaccine stockpile and to support eradication efforts.
In 2012, 398 million children have been vaccinated against polio. Only eradication will ensure a polio-free world. And prove that every child, everywhere, can be reached with life-saving vaccines.
Failure to eradicate polio puts the world at significant risk of polio resurgence, potentially leading to over 200,000 children paralysed annually within a decade. Adults have also been paralyzed and killed in recent outbreaks in polio-free areas such as Tajikistan and China.
We are all responsible for creating a polio-free world while we still can. Ending polio once and for all is a critical step in showing the way toward protecting all children from vaccine-preventable diseases.