Polio Eradication: Shooting for Zero but coming up a bit short

This TED Talk by Bruce Aylward is from 2011 when he was serving as the head of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).  Today, Dr. Aylward is still focused on polio eradication as the Assistant Director-General for Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration “which brings together WHO’s work in polio eradication, humanitarian response and country cooperation”. In his talk, he speaks passionately about why we should focus on making “the scientific miracle of this decade… the eradication of polio”.  Numbers have decreased, to be sure, but polio pushed back hard in 2013 and eradication was not accomplished this year.  But global health officials are confident it will be soon, importantly cases of polio have decreased in Afghanistan and Nigeria.  Additionally, for the first time in history, there have only been reported cases of one type of polio (for comparison, type 2 polio was last seen in 1999 and type 3 polio last seen in 2012).

Polio outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and Syria surpassed the number of cases reported in 2012 (223 cases).  The World Health Organization launched a polio vaccination campaign in the Middle East, particularly Syria, in November 2013.

UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado said that inside Syria, the biggest challenge the agency and its partners were facing is how to reach children who have not been vaccinated over the previous two years because they are in areas where violence is taking place and there is limited or no access. (UN News Center article)

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has laid out four objectives for the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018 .

1. Detect and interrupt all poliovirus transmission.

2. Strengthen immunization systems and withdraw oral polio vaccine

3. Contain poliovirus and certify interruption of transmission

4. Plan polio’s legacy.

GPEI is not alone in their goal of eradication.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is another leader in the battle to eradicate this debilitating disease.  Working to end the spread of polio helps fulfill the 5th United National Millennium Development Goal: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other Diseases.   For more information about the UN Millennium Develop Goals, please go to the extensive library research guide curated by School of Public Health student Alyssa Mouton.


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