This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Focus on


Polio Eradication or control?

Although cases of polio are reportedly at an all-time low worldwide, the disease remains endemic in Nigeria and there have been recent new outbreaks in a few other African countries, prompting fresh calls for an increase in efforts to help eradicate the disease once and for all. But the recent outbreaks have also reignited debate about whether a polio-free world through eradication is possible at all, or whether controlling the spread of the disease is more effective. Reports Muzondwasi Banda.


ccording to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), polio remains a substantial cause of disability in polio-endemic countries, like Nigeria in Africa,

and Afghanistan, India and Pakistan in Asia. In the past three years, 14 additional countries have reported cases as a result of importations. In Africa these include Angola, Burkina Faso, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Sudan, and Togo. The CDC and other proponents, argue

that until polio is eradicated in every country, it remains a threat to children in polio-free countries. This view is shared by director-general

of the World Health Organisation Dr Margaret Chan. “We have a window of opportunity now, with cases at an all-time low. But if there is polio anywhere we are at risk of polio everywhere. Only eradication will ensure that polio does not re-emerge as a global threat,” she said at the January 2011 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, where British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) announced new commitments to eradicating polio. “I passionately believe that we have

a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rid the world of the evil of polio,” stated the British premier. “We have the vaccines and the tools to

do it. All that’s missing is real and sustained political will to see this effort through to the end. We have come so far in eradicating polio. We are so close to delivering a polio- free world for all our children. Let’s finish the job. And let’s eradicate polio once-and- for-all,” he said.

70 | March 2011 New African With a polio funding gap of close to

$720m, the UK pledged it would double its support to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) over the next two years to £40m, to help fully vaccinate an additional 45 million children. Meanwhile Bill Gates announced that the BMGF will commit an additional $102m to help stamp out the disease. But the new funding news and the

expected mass immunisation programme in Africa scheduled to start this April are issues that have rekindled the debate over which of the two – control or eradication – will remove the burden of polio most effectively in Africa. Pro-control proponents have for

years questioned the overall goal of polio eradication, arguing that a lot of money has already been spent on elimination programmes, but the disease still remains a threat and refuses to completely disappear. In a recent New York Times (NYT)

report, Bill Gates’ efforts came under heavy attack from a number of polio-eradication sceptics, including Dr Donald Henderson, the former WHO officer who categorically believes that polio cannot be eradicated. His view was supported by Richard Horton, editor of the influential British medical journal The Lancet, who the NYT quotes as saying: “Bill Gates’ obsession with polio is

distorting priorities in other critical BMGF areas. Global health does not depend on polio eradication.” Another critic, Arthur L. Caplan,

director of the University of Pennsylvania bioethics centre, who himself spent nine months in hospital with polio as a child, told the NYT: “We ought to admit that the

Above: A child in DR Congo receives polio vaccination, which costs as little as 60 US cents

best we can achieve is control.” But responding to these criticisms,

the general secretary of Rotary International, Ed Futa, did not mince his words either: “Those who want to end the

eradication effort, in favour of controlling this crippling disease, are wrong, both morally and economically. The control approach allows an ‘acceptable’ number of children to suffer from a vaccine- preventable disease. Most of the victims will be the children of already hard-pressed families in developing countries. Who has the right to decide whose children are crippled for life and in what numbers? Eradication will also save money in the long run: more than $40bn, according to a recent study by Kid Risk, Inc. At stake is the $9bn already spent on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.” He added: “Members of Rotary Clubs

worldwide have worked hard for more than 25 years to end polio, contributing more than $1bn and countless volunteer hours. Total eradication, not control, must remain our goal.” Those who believe polio can be

eradicated question the motive of those who oppose the idea, citing how countries like the US eliminated the disease decades ago, due to concerted efforts and mass administration of the polio vaccine. Why can’t the same happen in Africa?

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92