Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Polio Success

As of yesterday, India joins most of the world as a country to have eliminated polio from its borders, with three consecutive years having gone by without any case having been detected, whether in humans or in sewage samples. This marks a significant milestone in human civilization. Consider the odds: in 2009, India accounted for half the reported polio cases in the world. In 2014, it has become polio-free. Rightly, this is being described as the biggest success in human health of the last decade.

The efforts behind this landmark are massive: millions of volunteers, billions of dollars in investment and a strong strategy to target every last child. According to one statistic, the Government of India alone spent $2.5 billion in this effort, with NGOs such as Rotary International and the Gates Foundation adding move to that. Although the Indian Government is not really known for its ability to deliver, this is one field in which it led the movement to fight polio.

However, many challenges remain. India's neighbourhood has two of the three countries that are still Polio-endemic: Afghanistan and Pakistan. The chances of importing the virus, as happened in Somalia, remain high. However, with continued focus, it can be avoided. More pressing is the danger of the vaccine itself causing polio. This calls for a paradigm shift beyond the OPV towards the IPV, which will finish off the virus once and for all.

2014 begins with a miraculous achievement for India, a reminder of what a united and focused nation can achieve. Hopefully, when it comes to other killer diseases such as TB, we can also find a way out. 

No comments: