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As Long As Polio Exists Anywhere, World Is At Risk

“[A]s long as polioviruses circulate anywhere in the world, they can be exported to countries that are now poliomyelitis-free and can cause serious outbreaks,” Trevor Mundel, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, and Walter Orenstein, a professor and associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center, write in a New England Journal of Medicine opinion piece. “Global eradication will require several key actions; these include administering oral poliovirus vaccine to interrupt the transmission of wild-type polioviruses, building and sustaining political commitment, improving routine immunization delivery in remaining reservoir countries, delivering vaccines to children living in areas in conflict, and providing rigorous, ongoing oversight,” Mundel and Orenstein state. “The history of successful eradication efforts over more than two decades has proven that we can finish the job. … [I]f we do not, any country is vulnerable to reimportation of poliomyelitis,” they write, and conclude, “Without question, the best defense against poliovirus is a good offense that eliminates the virus from the remaining reservoirs and truly eradicates the disease” (11/21).