October 24 “is World Polio Day, a day to celebrate the remarkable progress we’ve made in the fight against polio and to focus on the urgency of the work we still have to do,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in “The Gates Notes” blog. “But equally important, it’s also a day to say ‘thank you’ to the millions of people around the world who have generously given their time and money to this critical effort,” he continues, and features a video thanking the different organizations working together to bring an end to polio. “To ensure success, we need to fully fund polio campaigns and routine immunizations”; “continued leadership and accountability”; and “ensure the security of vaccination teams so they can get to children — even in the most difficult areas,” Gates writes (10/24). In a post on the Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jay Wenger, head of the polio program at the foundation, lists five reasons why he’s “excited” about World Polio Day. “It’s really because I have seen an unprecedented series of successes, commitment from existing and new donors and signs of progress that give me confidence we can finish the job,” he writes (10/23).
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a research fellow at CGD, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant at the center, respond to India’s marking of one-year since a case of polio was found in the country, writing, “While we applaud India for its commitment to reaching this milestone, let us not allow this recent success obscure the sorry state of vaccination in India.” They provide statistics regarding vaccination coverage in India and conclude, “We wonder whether India’s focus on polio may have come at the expense of other diseases,” and, “[w]hile India should be applauded for its contribution to global eradication, we urge India to consider the trade-offs in focusing on any one disease at the expense of another and, as much as possible, to try to piggy-back one effort to another effort” (1/14).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog interviews Ellyn Ogden, USAID’s worldwide polio eradication coordinator since 1997, about India’s progress in eradicating polio as it marked one year without a confirmed case and discusses what the overall eradication fight looks like today. Ogden said she believes global eradication of polio is possible, adding, “We pretty much owe it to India to give this effort some time. They worked so hard to get 172 million kids vaccinated. There are always skeptics. But it doesn’t get much more difficult than in India. If they can do it here, we should be able to do it anyplace with the tools and strategies we have” (Donnelly, 1/17).
“After more than a century as a global scourge and hundreds of thousands lives lost, polio may now be on the verge of being the second human disease wiped off the face of the Earth,” Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in his column for ForeignPolicy.com, “The Optimist,” and asks whether it is worth it to spend billions of dollars to wipe out the few remaining cases of the disease. Kenny discusses the cost-effectiveness of eradication efforts and writes, “In part because of the considerably greater complexity of the vaccination program, the cost of the polio eradication program is mounting.”
T. Jacob John, a former professor of clinical virology an the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, who has served on several Global and National Committees on Immunization and Polio Eradication, writes in this opinion piece in India’s Hindu, “While one year has passed without polio caused by natural poliovirus, we can claim complete eradication only after we ensure the absence of wild and vaccine polioviruses in the population.” He provides a brief history of polio eradication efforts, globally and in India, and continues, “For certification of eradication, two more years should pass without any case of wild virus polio. … We must continue working as if we still have poliovirus lurking somewhere, only to show up when least expected” (1/8).
In its ongoing series examining efforts to eradicate polio, NPR health editor Joe Neel and Jason Beaubien, a global health and development correspondent for the news service, on Thursday spoke with “Talk of the Nation” host Neil Conan about obstacles to stamping out polio in the three countries where the disease persists — Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. According to the transcript, they discuss how “[o]bstacles in each country, including religious extremism, difficult terrain and transient populations, make eradication efforts difficult” (10/25).
UNICEF has released its 2012 partnership profiles, “short case studies which highlight specific partnership initiatives at global, regional and country levels” and “illustrate how partnerships have contributed to results, either the creation of innovation, policy advocacy, evidence generation, or provision of essential services,” according to UNICEF’s Partnerships webpage. Some of the organizations highlighted include the GAVI Alliance (.pdf), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (.pdf), and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (.pdf) (9/17).
India Marking Health Achievement In Polio-Free Year But Cautious Optimism Remains Among Some Experts
“On Friday, India marks a huge public health milestone — a year since a case of polio was found in the country — a critical step in being declared polio-free and an achievement that many experts long argued was impossible,” the Globe and Mail reports (Nolen, 1/11). “The achievement gives a major morale boost to health advocates and donors who had begun to lose hope of ever defeating the stubborn disease that the world had promised to eradicate by 2000,” the Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes (Nessman, 1/12).
In part one of a two-part blog post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” USAID Worldwide Polio Eradication Coordinator Ellyn Ogden reports on the “hard work and dedication of the Indian government at the national, state, district, block and panchaiyat levels” that was required for the country to have a year free of polio. “Over two million health workers, mobilizers, and volunteers have contributed to this success and deserve to be seen as heroes in their communities,” she writes (1/20). In part two of the post, Ogden recaps polio vaccination efforts and challenges, discusses the last recorded case of polio, and writes that going forward, “Guarded optimism prevails” as the country “is still at risk of importations from countries that have not yet stopped polio transmission” (1/23).
“In India, a mass vaccination campaign involving more than a million volunteers reduced cases nationally by 94 percent between 2009 and 2010, from 741 to 42, and down to the single case last year,” the Guardian reports, adding, “If in India as a whole there are no more confirmed cases before 13 January, the country will have completed its first year without a new victim. And if polio is gone from India, the only countries where the disease is still endemic would be Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”