Why It Matters

child receiving polio vaccination immunization

Photo Credit: WHO

Lives Saved

The world has come a long way in the fight against polio. In 1988, there were 350,000 cases of wild polio across 125 countries and in 2018, there were only 33 cases in in two countries. Efforts to eradicate polio over the last few decades haves meant that over 18 million cases of paralysis have been averted.

Success in eradicating polio will mean that no child will have to experience the devastating effects of the disease again. Failure to eradicate polio could cause  poliovirus to reappear around the world with up to 200,000 new cases expected every year within 10 years. We are so close to eradicating the virus, but we need to finish the job now, once and for all.

female polio workers

Polio Campaigns in Africa

polio campaigns in africa

Economic Case

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)external icon, a unique public-private partnership, began in 1988 to coordinate a global strategy to stop polio. GPEI partners and national governments work together to vaccinate over 400 million children a year. These efforts ensure that we reach every child to achieve a polio-free world.

Recent modeling attests that eradicating polio will generate US$14 billion in expected cumulative cost savings by 2050 when compared with the cost countries will incur for controlling the virus indefinitely.

Polio eradication efforts have a broader impact than just stopping the virus. Polio health care workers who administer polio vaccines have also delivered more than 1.3 billion doses of vitamin A since 1988, saving an estimated 1.5 million children’s lives.

The Polio Endgame Strategy

Finding and getting rid of the virus in every last corner of the world is challenging because it remains in some of the toughest places that often require significant resources to address. Despite this challenge, GPEI remains steadfast in its aim to end polio for good.

GPEI’s Polio Endgame Strategy 2019-2023external icon, outlines the risks and gaps in wild poliovirus eradication as well as the strategies, activities, and innovations needed to overcome those barriers. The 2019-2023 plan builds off the 2013-2018 strategy and its four objectives toward the goal of achieving eradication: (1) to detect and interrupt all poliovirus transmission; (2) to strengthen immunization systems and withdraw OPV; (3) to contain poliovirus and certify interruption of transmission; and (4) to begin to plan for the responsible transition of the polio eradication effort.

The 2019-2023 strategy has three goals 1) eradication; 2) integration; and 3) certification and containment. GPEI continues to focus on eradication to interrupt transmission of the virus by conducting vaccination campaigns to reach every child and enhancing disease surveillance to detect every case. Another key element of the plan is to strengthen collaboration with other health actors and immunization programs to deliver integrated services to eradicate polio and protect populations. Finally, the plan ensures long-term polio security through the containment of the virus.

GPEI is committed to eradicating polio and ensuring a smooth transition after eradication so that the world remains polio-free, knowledge generated from eradication is disseminated, and other health priorities that benefitted from the eradication effort are supported.

Page last reviewed: September 28, 2021
Content source: Global Immunization