"Since the eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s, no other diseases have followed suit; the goal that has come closest so far is eradication of polio," a Lancet Infectious Diseases editorial states, noting that in 2012 only about 250 people were infected with polio worldwide. However, the recent murders of polio vaccinators "highlight how a threat that for many is thankfully a distant memory -- or for younger generations in some developed countries unknown -- remains a real and present danger." The editorial continues, "The disease remains entrenched in three countries -- Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan -- where social, political, and logistical factors prevent effective vaccination campaigns and lead to export of virus to countries that have previously been free of the disease."
"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the major contributors of financial aid to the polio eradication effort, and speaking recently in London at the Richard Dimbleby lecture, Bill Gates reiterated his commitment to wiping out the diseases, highlighting the new eradication target of 2018," the editorial notes. "On January 23, the [Global Polio Eradication Initiative] published a draft Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan (2013-18)," (.pdf) the editorial writes, noting, "The milestones for the new strategic plan are for the last case of wild polio by 2014, withdrawal of type 2 oral polio vaccine by 2015-16, worldwide certification of polio eradication by the end of 2018, and cessation of bivalent oral polio vaccination during 2019." The editorial concludes, "2018 seems soon, but for some children it will not be soon enough. And for the vaccination workers who have lost their lives, eradication of polio within five years would be a tribute to their efforts" (March 2013).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.