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WHO Upholds Plan to Eradicate Polio by 2018

Apr 03, 2013 02:21 PM EDT

The World Health Organization has officially passed off an a strategy that, should it succeed, would result in the complete eradication of polio by 2018.

Called the Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan, the plan was put forth by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and focuses in part on increasing security for vaccine workers given the recent killings in Pakistan and Nigeria

Furthermore, the new strategy addresses the issue of polio cases caused by the vaccine itself, a risk only posed by oral vaccinations. For this reason, the plan calls for workers to begin phasing them out in favor of vaccination via shots by 2016.

Also addressed is the importance of routine immunization, which the plan emphasizes in order to allow for the succesful introductiong of "new vaccines to manage poliovirus risks" as well as to "drive high and sustained population immunity to poliovirus," as stated in the plan.

The strategy also provides for facilities to retain poliovirus stocks and ensuring safe handling and biocontainment of these locations. 

And while all of these may prove difficult, the hardest part may be in raising the funds themselves, which the GPEI recognizes will be especially challenging given the significant costs (current estimates fall in the range of $5.5 billion), and the tightening of government funds worldwide.

Suppoters of the cause, however, include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF and the Rotary club.

Last year, authorities reported just 223 cases of polio worldwide. The year before, it was 650. Currently, the disease remains endemic in just three countries - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

As Dr. Rebecca Martin of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press, these numbers offer a rare opportunity for mankind to actually rid itself of a disease entirely.

"We have have a chance now," she said, "with the fewest cases in the fewest places."

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