Friday, September 28, 2012

Politics Has No Place In Polio Eradication

Global Immunization Campaign In Final Stages

Having children made us look differently at all these things that we take for granted, like taking your child to get a vaccine against measles or polio.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

A Child Receives An Oral Polio Vaccine, the most-efficient way to deliver the vaccine. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has been successful, says the World Health Organization. "Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries then, to 1352 reported cases in 2010."
Photo Credit: USAID-Bangladesh, 2004
Source: Wikipedia

An article from Reuters published in the National Post shows the logistical and political difficulties in eradicating polio, a crippling disease that is still prevalent in a few nations, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is leading the efforts to completely eradicate polio by 2018.
When Bill Gates hears about children like Fahad Usman, a two-year-old Pakistani boy crippled by polio before he learned to walk, the billionaire philanthropist sounds frustrated and fired up. Fear and suspicion have prevented thousands of children like Fahad from being protected against the infectious and incurable disease. Now more than ever, it’s time that stopped, Gates says. Rumours that polio immunisation campaigns are “Western plots to sterilise Muslims” or that the vaccine is “George Bush’s urine” underline the need to take politics out of the fight to eradicate polio, he says.
If Gates, the most influential of global health advocates, gets his wish — and in an interview he’s pretty sure he will — the world won’t stop at the 99 percent reduction in cases so far, but will rid itself of polio completely by 2018.
Yet evidence from Pakistan and Afghanistan, two of only three countries where polio is still endemic, suggests a battle lies ahead to overcome Taliban opposition, vaccine refusals, security and funding gaps to beat out that last one percent.“We are working hard to depoliticise the whole thing,” said Gates, whose $35 billion Gates Foundation is spearheading international efforts to eradicate the disease.
He noted what he called “episodes of lack of communication” between those who want to rid the world of polio and some Taliban leaders, but was optimistic that working with new donors and using local knowledge would secure eventual success. He is eager to involve more donors from Muslim countries. “In no way should this campaign be associated with just the West,” he said. “This is the whole world working together to eradicate a disease.”
Such is a good and wonderful thing; and it is a testament to medical science, innovation and determination, and equally important on how goodwill can overcome both political and religious distrust. This is the type of news that doesn't get front-page headlines, but it should. You can read about the history of polio and of the development of the vaccine here; and about the global efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation here.

You can read the rest of the article at [National Post]


  1. Sometimes medicines have side effects. Sometimes the cure seems worse than the disease. This is most definitely not true in the case of polio vaccine--an unambiguous blessing. Vaccination makes use of our own natural abilities to form antibodies.
    There have been anti-vaccine movements all over the world, and perhaps the New Wave of the 1970s gave them strength. Fortunately, they never became a major phenomenon in the West. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, where people become suicide bombers, saving lives has less importance. Furthermore, improvements in health caused by advances in medicine might make people think that science is a better way to treat illness than faith.

    1. Some individuals advocate the ancient use of leeches for blood-letting; I don't.


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