Thanks to persistent public health efforts, recent years have seen significant progress against polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that can lead to paralysis and death. Cases have been reduced by more than 99% since 1988, with wild polio seen in just two countries today — Pakistan and Afghanistan — and is confined to small areas within them. These efforts have also seen the World Health Organization’s African region become polio-free in 2020 – a major landmark toward eradication. But pressure must be kept up if polio is to be wiped out altogether. To this end, Bloomberg Philanthropies provides major assistance to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The GPEI receives financial support from governments of countries affected by polio; private-sector foundations, donor governments, multilateral organizations, private individuals, humanitarian and nongovernmental organizations, and corporate partners.
The Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan
The continuation of well-funded international cooperation will be key to protecting and extending this progress. Since 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $225 million to support the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan, a comprehensive strategy for ending the disease. Investments in stopping polio have also helped to improve the overall health of communities, which are using the new knowledge and infrastructure to also help fight other diseases, strengthen immunization, and deliver other health services.
Just one of polio’s three wild-type strains is still paralyzing children; wild polio virus type 2 was declared eradicated in 2015 and type 3 was declared eradicated 4 years later. In addition to eradicating wild type polio for good, there is a need to address vaccine-derived polio. Polio vaccine strains can rarely mutate in populations with low vaccine coverage. Although uncommon, large outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio can occur. Paralysis from vaccine-derived polio is indistinguishable from wild type polio. These outbreaks further highlight the need for investment and prioritization of routine childhood vaccination. Polio is a disease on the verge of extinction — Bloomberg Philanthropies aims to help it over the line.
Top photo: A health worker administers polio vaccine to children during a three-day countrywide vaccination campaign in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo credit: Shutterstock