The pandemic set back the fight against polio, but a new $5.1 billion plan launched today by The Global Polio Eradication Initiative shows renewed resolve.
Though polio cases have fallen 99.9% since 1988, the disease remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and cases have been rising recently:
- 1,226 cases of all forms of polio recorded in 2020 compared to 138 in 2018.
COVID-19 diverted critical staff and over $100 million in funding from polio programs last year, and forced a 4-month suspension of door-to-door vaccination campaigns in 30+ countries, The New York Times reports.
Key features of GEPI’s new plan:
- Integrate polio activities with essential health services—including routine immunization
- Strengthen partnerships with high-risk communities, particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan—the 2 countries yet to interrupt wild polio transmission
- Ensure vaccine supply
- Carefully select communications messengers and secure community buy-in to address vaccine hesitancy
Expert take: Universal vaccination should be emphasized rather than hunting down each transmission chain, write 4 authors of a new Lancet Global Health commentary. They prioritize disease prevention rather than the less realistic goal of getting rid of the virus—and warn that the countries most affected need more aid to keep up with vaccinations.