WHO Will Not Eradicate Polio Worldwide by 2005, Officials Announce
Officials for the World Health Organization on Wednesday announced that they will not meet a target to eradicate polio worldwide by the end of the year, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Bulman, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/12). In 1988, WHO launched a $4 billion campaign to eradicate polio worldwide by 2005 (Reuters/Boston Globe, 10/13).
WHO officials said that they expect to eradicate polio in all nations except Nigeria within six months, in large part because of a more effective vaccine and new immunization strategies. WHO, Rotary International, CDC and UNICEF will use the new monovalent oral polio vaccine to complete the eradication campaign. The vaccine targets Type 1 poliovirus, the most prevalent form of the disease and rapidly builds immunity in children to improve protection. The WHO Advisory Committee on Polio Eradication also recommended a more rapid response when polio cases are reported to prevent the spread of the disease.
According to the committee, health officials should develop of a response plan within 72 hours and schedule a large-scale national polio immunization day that covers at least five million children within four weeks. The response plan should include house-to-house polio immunization campaign, with at least three rounds of the vaccine administered to children over six months.
"The recommendation is that this vaccine should become the workhorse of the final mop-up stage of this final eradication effort," Steve Cochi, chair of the committee, said. David Heymann, who oversees polio eradication efforts at WHO, said, "The new approach is a more rapid approach because polio is considered a public health emergency of international importance. In an interconnected world, these viruses travel easily and don't respect international borders" (Linn, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/13).
Polio remains endemic in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt. Some parents in Nigeria, which has had 489 polio cases this year, boycotted the vaccine from 2003 to 2004 -- a move that effectively allowed the disease to spread to Chad, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Indonesia (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/12). Yemen has had 472 polio cases this year. The number of polio cases worldwide this year -- 1,349 cases as of Oct. 12 -- has exceeded the total number last year -- 1,255 cases (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/13).