Polio causes irreversible paralysis and sometimes death.
To achieve a zero rate of polio in the world, a group of international scientists have come together to endorse a new strategy called the Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan.
The strategy, created by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, GPEI, and a range of experts and stakeholders, aims at reaching and sustaining the eradication of polio by 2018.
Polio, a disease that causes irreversible paralysis and death, is now found in only few countries including Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan; with Nigeria having the highest number of persons living with the disease.
GPEI and the all scientists who have signed on to support the plan to eradicate polio said the plan was borne out the need to live in a society that is totally free of children who have to deal with paralysis or even die of the disease; and the realization that a total eradication of polio is achievable.
According to the GPEI in a statement released on Thursday, the unprecedented progress, scientific advances and new tools, citing the drop of new cases of wild polio virus from about 350, 000 in about 125 countries to fewer than 250 cases in just five countries proves that in 2018, polio can become history.
“The new Strategic Plan provides a clear path forward that capitalizes on this historic opportunity to end polio. The plan is a long-term, comprehensive strategy to complete and sustain eradication. The plan’s strategies are sound and, when implemented, will interrupt transmission, sustain eradication and maximize post-eradication benefits.
“The plan is a significant step forward over previous eradication strategies and offers strong solutions to challenges by including: Data-driven strategies to overcome operational challenges—including missed children—to ensure high quality immunization campaigns that can interrupt transmission globally; and plans to eliminate both wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived poliovirus, starting with the withdrawal of type 2 from OPV and introduction of IPV in all countries to boost immunity to remaining strains. Insecurity in endemic countries is a serious threat to the program.
“To overcome this challenge, the GPEI will improve coordination between civilian and security services, increase community demand for vaccination services, enhance advocacy efforts by religious leaders and institutions, and increase vaccinations in areas bordering insecure places to reduce spread of the disease,” the scientist said in the press release titled, the Scientific Declaration on Polio Eradication.
“The new plan emphasizes the urgency of improving routine immunization systems and lays a foundation to protect children against other diseases”.
More reasons for the Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan
All scientists supporting the new strategy and the GPEI say relaxing on efforts to eradicate the polio virus will be tragic.
“For polio viruses to survive, they must be transmitted from infected persons to susceptible persons in a continuous chain of human-to-human transmission. When immunity levels are high, the chains are broken. Today, there are fewer chains than ever before, creating an unprecedented opportunity to stop transmission.
“Weakening our efforts would lower immunity levels, setting the stage for a resurgence of outbreaks. Polio is highly infectious and spreads quickly. If we aim for control rather than eradication—relying only on routine immunization to vaccinate against polio and eliminating mass vaccination and other eradication strategies—we can expect up to 200,000 cases annually,” the scientists warned.
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