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Closing Funding Gap To Eradicate Polio Now Would Mean Fewer Resources Spent On Disease In Future

Noting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “has been spearheading an effort over the past couple of years to close the last mile on polio eradication,” Matthew Yglesias, business and economics correspondent for Slate, writes in the magazine’s “Moneybox” blog, “The Gates Foundation believes it has a plan to get this done for about $5.5 billion over a six-year period, and they’ve raised about $4 billion in pledges already.” He continues, “Their rather modest ‘ask’ of the United States government is that we increase our annual contribution to this effort to $200 million a year from its current pace of $150 million [in FY12] (a sum we occasionally undermine by using vaccination as a front for intelligence operations),” adding, “My guess is that the relevant members of the Obama administration are highly sympathetic to the idea of coughing up the extra money, but have not been incredibly successful at obtaining the time of the most senior level of officials to discuss political, legal, and communications strategies for getting this done.”

“Fully closing the funding gap would cost approximately what the U.S. spent on the Libya intervention (that’s not considering spending by NATO allies) so winning the war on polio would be an undertaking of roughly the scale that we’re prepared to contemplate for military measures,” Yglesias notes, and concludes, “I would just urge that if you’re thinking about international humanitarian issues this week you spend some time to ponder how close we are to eradicating a major disease and to the idea that maybe it’d be smart for major rich world powers to throw their shoulders into this” as “we can permanently stop spending resources on polio vaccines and redirect that public health money to malaria or clean water or whatever else catches your fancy” (8/30).