The World Health Organization, or W-H-O, says that polio can be eradicated by the end of 2006. One factor in this optimistic assessment is the increased use of vaccine. Children are most vulnerable to the polio virus which can cause paralysis and even death.
The original goal of eliminating polio by the end of 2005 was missed because in 2003, several states in northern Nigeria halted immunizations. Some local Nigerian clerics falsely claimed that the oral polio vaccine caused sterility and was part of a campaign by the West against Muslims. When the vaccinations were stopped, the polio virus spread across borders, re-infecting eighteen previously polio-free countries, as far away as Yemen and Indonesia.
Dr. David Heymann of the W-H-O says that Nigerian religious leaders now support polio vaccination:
"We believe it is feasible to interrupt polio transmission in each country. That is, to stop the transmission of the polio virus by mid-year for all countries. . . .and by the end of 2006 or early 2007 for Nigeria."
Some three-hundred-fifty-thousand children were affected by the disease when the worldwide polio eradication campaign began in 1988. By 2005, that number had dropped to one-thousand-seven-hundred, with about six-hundred in Nigeria. Other countries with reported cases include India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Niger.
The U.S., the U-N, and nongovernmental partners, including Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are supporting the worldwide polio eradication initiative. The U.S. has pledged more than nine-hundred-million dollars to the campaign.
President George W. Bush says the U.S. is committed to taking all necessary steps to eliminate the disease.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.