D.For example, there have been only two cases of wild polio recorded in 2021 – two hidden sites of the disease in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the end is not guaranteed. Polio is wireless and spreads rapidly. Even a single case is a threat to unaccompanied children everywhere, which is why there is a new strategy Launched last week The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has identified a plan to use this small window of opportunity to eradicate polio worldwide.
Globally, polio cases have dropped by 99.9% in recent decades, thanks in large part to GPEI and its supporters. The British government recently announced that it would reduce its stake in GPEI by more than 95%. The cuts in funding are about a quarter of the World Health Organization’s annual polio eradication budget.
When I contracted polio in the early 1970’s, I was one of the millions of children paralyzed by this preventable disease each year. The UK can be proud to have helped ensure that there are more than 19 million pedestrians today who would otherwise be paralyzed by polio. It formally helped the entire African continent eradicate the wild polio virus last year.
Coyote has already wiped out weak health systems around the world and more children have succumbed to preventable diseases such as polio. For Britain now to turn to the people it has championed for so long, it is the wrong decision at the wrong time.
GPEI is facing the last and toughest competition to end. At the same time, wild polio is being transmitted to two countries, with a non-wild form of polio, CVDPV, spreading to immunized societies in Africa, Asia and parts of the Middle East. The epidemic of epilepsy, which temporarily halted last year’s eradication activities, has exacerbated these challenges and severely hampered efforts to overcome British funding cuts.
With the launch of its five-year strategy, GPEI is on track to achieve a polio-free world, and the UK still has a chance to be a part of it. The project will focus on partnering with high-risk communities to increase vaccine acceptance and integrating polio activities with essential health services so that the program can provide wider benefits to affected communities.
Like the extraordinary global cooperation over the past year to develop a number of COVED-19 vaccines, GPEI and its partners are at the forefront of vaccine innovation. The new program will expand the use of a Next generation vaccine – nOPV2 – which launched a rollout this year and could help prevent the outbreak of type 2 CVDPV permanently.
We have reached out so far against polio and have a clear plan to overcome the finish line, which should be reason enough to fully support its eradication. But investing in polio is more than just tackling the disease.
GPEI and its infrastructure are key to protecting the world – and the UK – from the dangers of emerging diseases. Its extensive surveillance system and front-line workers have helped detect and respond to epidemics, including measles, yellow fever, Ebola and avian flu. Last year, the program refused to respond to the epidemic with its resources and 30,000 workers through immediate tests and traces, public health messaging and community involvement.
The epidemic has shown how fast a new disease can spread around the world. If the UK is serious about improving global healthcare, which will also benefit its own population, then it must continue to support GPEI infrastructure.
The UK has a historic opportunity to help create polio, the second most common human disease after smallpox, and to lead the way in global health. Now it’s time to get up. If the epidemic has taught us anything, it is that wherever the virus is circulating, there is always an epidemic on the cards.
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