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Eradicating Polio

The Advisory Committee for Polio Eradication, an independent monitoring group of the global polio eradication effort, met recently in Geneva. The medical scientists report that since 1988, with the launching of the worldwide campaign to eradicate polio, some two billion children have been immunized and less than two-thousand cases of the disease were reported in 2005. Once contracted, the polio virus can lead to paralysis and death.

One-hundred-eighty-nine countries are now polio-free. But, according to the committee members, success in completely eliminating polio depends on eradicating the disease in four countries where it is still prevalent: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Steven Cochi, the committee's chairman, is a physician at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. He says with improved vaccines now available, the four countries "have the best tools we've ever had. Eradicating polio is no longer a technical issue alone," says Dr. Cochi. He says, "Success is now more a question of the political will to ensure effective administration at all levels so that all children get vaccine."

In a written statement, the Advisory Commission on Polio Eradication says it "advised the four polio-endemic countries to set realistic target dates for stopping transmission, noting that improvements in reaching all children in these areas have been only incremental, and that these countries will take more than twelve months to end polio."

In a recent speech on the polio eradication effort, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky said a “historic opportunity lies within the grasp of the global community to rid the world of this dreaded disease.” She says “completing the task of eliminating polio requires commitment, cooperation, and community involvement with national and local political and religious figures in the four countries having a crucial role to play in disseminating helpful information, dispelling myths, and instilling confidence regarding immunization.”

The key partners in the worldwide polio initiative include the United Nations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and Rotary International, a nongovernmental organization. The U.S. has contributed over one quarter of the five billion dollars donated to the Global Polio Eradication effort thus far, including one hundred and thirty two million dollars this year. President George W. Bush says the U.S. is committed to taking all necessary steps to eliminate this disease.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.