Progress Towards Polio Eradication: The Hope for the Future

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On May 31, 1988 the World Health Assembly voted to eradicate polio from the globe by the year 2000. Since this time much progress has been made:

-Three regions of the world are reported by the World Health Organization to be free of indigenous wildtype poliovirus. These include the American Region which was certified free of indigenous polio in 1994, the European Region which has been declared polio-free since 1999, and the Western Pacific Region including China, which will soon be certified as polio-free this year, the year 2000.

-In addition to being eradicated from the three regions mentioned above, polio has nearly been cleared from the Middle East and most of northern and southern Africa.

-The number of cases of polio has been reduced from 350,000 in 1988 to some 5.200 reported cases in 1999.

-The percentage of the world's children living in polio infected areas has dropped from 90% to less than 50%.

What still needs to be done?

The adminstration of polio drops at an immunization clinic

-Polio still remains epidemic in 30 nations worldwide. Countries with high priority in the eradication initiative include India (where 70% of the world's polio cases occur today), Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh.

-In order to effectively clear polio from these areas, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization, said in a January 6, 2000 speech in New Delhi India, that it will take :

1. countries providing leadership for extra immunization activities,
2. allocation of sufficient resources to support National Immunization Days,
3. routine immunization and surveillance activities,
4. mobilization of support for these efforts from the national to the community level,
5. introduction and enforcement of days of tranquillity in areas affected by conflict.

In terms of feasibility of this plan, India has shown great progress from 1998-99. It has carried out massive house-to-house vaccine delivery ensuring that every child is vaccinated, even those in remote areas. It has completed three rounds of extra nation-wide immunization days, and plans to have three more days in the near future. Thus, India will serve as a leader for the remaining nations that need to become certified as polio-free.

It must be stress though, that the goal of global eradication must be reached soon. Dr. Brundtland says it best: "In the year 2000--the target year for polio eradication--we have a window of opportunity to defeat this disease forever."

One reason for the urgency is due to HIV+ individuals, and others who are immunosuppressed. These people may not be able to receive the live oral polio vaccine which is most effective at inducing immunity to polio, and thus facilitating the eradication initiative.

To learn more about the progress of global polio eradication visit the CDC or the WHO sites.

To read Dr. Brundtland's speech on the "Final Push for Polio Eradication in the Year 2000 - Every Child Counts" visit: