Can We Eradicate Polio Forever?
What’s the Latest Development?
A new and independent report says that next year’s deadline set by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (G.P.E.I.) is at risk of failure. Currently, polio is endemic in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria. But each country faces its unique problems. In Afghanistan, doctors can hardly access the worn-torn southern regions; rumors once spread in Nigeria that the polio vaccine would sterilize children and infect them with AIDS; India and Pakistan, better by comparison, still suffer infections in some stubborn regions.
What’s the Big Idea?
While the G.P.E.I. has done very well at containing the disease—current infection rates are 1 percent of what they were in 1988, the year the World Health Organization declared its goal of eradicating the disease by 2000—polio has proven difficult to completely eliminate. One main problem is that the virus lurks silently, paralyzing only one in every 200 carriers; another is that the vaccine is delicate and must be kept cool. And even if polio is deemed eradicated, vaccinations will have to continue just in case. “For now the G.P.E.I. is resolute. But the eradication campaign cannot last for ever.”