Why It Matters

Updated March 2, 2023

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 2021, there were only 6 cases in in three countries. Efforts to eradicate polio over the last few decades have meant that over 20 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), 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$33.1 billion in expected cumulative cost savings by 2100 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 over 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 places that often need significant resources to address.

Backed by strong investments and political commitment, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has helped bring us to the brink of a polio-free world. Persistent challenges, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have prompted the program to transform its approach to achieving eradication.

The GPEI’s Polio Eradication Strategy 2022-2026, aims to

  • Urgently overcome the remaining hurdles to eradication
  • Strengthen health systems in affected countries
  • Ensure all children are protected from this preventable disease.

The 2022-2026 plan updates the 2019-2023 strategy by considering the COVID-19 pandemic and offering a comprehensive set of actions that will position the GPEI to achieve a polio-free world. These actions include four objectives that work together towards the goal of achieving eradication:

  1. Further integrate polio activities with essential health services
    1. Include polio activities with routine immunization
    2. Build closer partnerships with high-risk communities to co-design immunization events and better meet their health needs
    3. Increase community commitment to child immunization
  2. Strengthen advocacy to urge greater accountability and ownership of the program at all levels
    1. Enhanced performance measurement and engagement with new partners
  3. Improve the impact and efficiency of polio campaigns
    1. Implement innovative new tools, such as digital payments to frontline health workers
    2. Recognition and empowerment of the frontline workforce
  4. Enhance detection and response
    1. Sensitive surveillance that provides the program with critical information for action

The 2022-2026 strategy has two goals:

  1. Permanently interrupt all poliovirus transmission in endemic countries
  2. Stop all circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) transmission and prevent outbreaks in non-endemic countries

The 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.