About Global Polio Eradication

Key points

  • Polio cases have decreased by more than 99%.
  • Two types of vaccines are available to help prevent polio.
  • Polio eradication is possible – but challenges remain.
An infant is given oral polio vaccine.

Progress towards eradicating polio

Polio cases have decreased by more than 99%.‎

In 1988, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to eradicate polio, leading to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). As a result, partners including CDC are working together to ensure that every child receives several doses of polio vaccines.

Since the launch of GPEI, polio cases have decreased by more than 99%. In addition, polio vaccines have prevented an estimated 20 million cases of paralysis in children since 1988.

Vaccines have stopped the spread of wild poliovirus in all but two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, other countries have experienced outbreaks of poliovirus variants, which can emerge in areas where immunization rates are low.

Success in eradicating polio will mean that no more children will have to experience the devastating effects of the disease.

Terms to know

Did you know?‎

Only one human disease (smallpox) has been eradicated. The World Health Assembly has declared polio a candidate for eradication.

Disease elimination happens when there are no more cases of a disease in a certain geographical area.

Disease eradication happens when there are no more cases of a disease in the world.


An infant is given oral poliovirus vaccine.
An infant in Pakistan gets an oral poliovirus vaccine. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where wild poliovirus is still endemic (consistently present). Credit: ©UNICEF/U.S. CDC/UN0828390/Bashir

Two types of vaccines are available to help prevent polio.‎

Two types of vaccines are used to help prevent global polio: oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) and inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), which is given as an injection.

OPV is the vaccine used globally to eradicate polio, which can spread in areas with poor access to clean water, handwashing, and good sanitation. In those settings, OPV offers an inexpensive and efficient way to immunize people against polio.

Since 2000, only IPV has been used in the U.S.

Next steps

It is possible to eradicate polio.‎

However, significant challenges remain to reach this goal.

As long as wild poliovirus remains in Afghanistan and Pakistan, all countries are at risk of wild poliovirus being imported.

For example, an outbreak of wild poliovirus (imported from Pakistan) occurred in Southeastern Africa in 2021 and 2022. Ongoing conflicts and competing health priorities make it challenging to vaccinate all children in countries with wild poliovirus.

In some other countries, poliovirus variants (also known as vaccine-derived poliovirus) present an additional challenge. Variant poliovirus outbreaks emerge when not enough children are vaccinated against polio.

Three actions are urgently needed to end polio once and for all:

  • Strengthen routine polio immunization, ensuring all infants receive several doses of polio vaccines before one year of age.
  • Detect polio cases in a timely manner.
  • Rapidly respond to outbreaks with high-quality vaccination campaigns.


CDC and WHO science on polio‎

CDC and WHO publish an annual update on progress towards polio eradication. Additional studies are available in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Report (MMWR).