The paralyzing viral scourge of polio could be eradicated worldwide by 2018, say hundreds of international scientists, doctors and experts, and on April 11, they collectively endorsed a new strategy to achieve that goal.
That strategy was outlined in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
, announced last week. Among other steps, it calls for delivering polio vaccines to more children at risk, especially in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, where polio is still endemic and emergency immunization campaigns are underway. The Initiative also calls for stepped up efforts aimed at protecting vaccination teams in insecure areas, strengthening routine immunization, and phasing out oral polio vaccines in favor of inactivated ones. The Initiative estimates it would cost about $5.5 billion to eradicate polio entirely over the next five years.
In launching their Scientific Declaration on Polio Eradication, the more than 400 signatories from 80 countries note that the world has a unique - but limited - window of opportunity to end the crippling, contagious illness.
Worldwide, polio cases are at an all-time low. Only 223 new cases were recorded last year, and there have been only 16 so far this year. In India - where polio was once widespread - not a single case has been recorded in more than two years.
According to one of the declaration's signatories, "Eradicating polio is no longer a question of technical or scientific feasibility. Rather, getting the most effective vaccines to children at risk requires stronger political and societal commitment."
The declaration's launch coincides with the 58th anniversary of the announcement of Dr. Jonas Salk's revolutionary polio vaccine.