World Polio Day 2016: eradication is so close


The Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched in 1988 is entering its final stages: 2016 could see transmission of the virus halted once and for all.


Toward the disappearance of an infection


The world has never been so close to eradicating the next major disease: polio is set to be the second human disease – after smallpox – to be wiped off the face of the earth by 2020. Today, only three endemic countries remain – Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan – and the transmission of the virus could be interrupted by the end of the year. Unfortunately, despite no cases having been confirmed in Africa for two years, there was an outbreak in Nigeria this summer. The mass immunization campaign underway should ensure it is promptly stamped out.


The countdown will start at the beginning of 2017: if no cases of wild polio are detected for three years – the time the virus can survive outside the body – the world will be officially declared polio free. It is thanks to the endeavors of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a program on an unparalleled scale run by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1988. The Initiative’s many partners include UNICEF, Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not to mention Sanofi Pasteur which launched an unprecedented manufacturing campaign.


Vaccination campaign effectiveness 


20 million people mobilized, more than $8 billion spent in the past 28 years – the investment has paid off: the number of cases of polio has been slashed by 99.9% with only 26 cases recorded at the end of September for 2016. The oral vaccine which was used initially by the mass immunization campaigns has been gradually replaced by the injectable version, the only vaccine capable of halting the transmission of the polio virus for good. Since the WHO recommendation in 2013, it is supposed to be included on the pediatric vaccination schedule in every country in the world. More than 100 developing countries have adopted it and oral vaccination will be phased out by the end of 2020.


The world is on tenterhooks but one thing is certain: none of it would have been possible without the unfailing support of thousands of volunteers, tirelessly carrying out their mission in the remotest, poorest and often war-torn regions of the globe. Two volunteer vaccinators from Pakistan. Azra and Latif, will be receiving the Louis Pasteur medal today at an awards ceremony held at the Institut Pasteur to mark World Polio Day. These two polio heroes risk their lives every day carrying out door- to-door vaccination of the children of their country. Their intervention is not always welcomed and in some areas they are escorted by armed police. Theirs is a poignant but heartening tale. Thanks to them, polio will soon be a thing of the past.

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10.24.17 By Sanofi Le Hub

World Polio Day:
closer to eradication
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