The January 14 issue of TIME Magazine includes a powerful feature on the progress, urgency, and serious challenges of ending polio and creating a world where no child has to be threatened by this debilitating disease. (Full text available by subscription only).
The reporter, Jeff Kluger, has been following polio for years and wrote a book about the disease: Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio.
Eradicating polio is for the global good ensuring no child will ever again be paralyzed or killed by the polio virus. 99% of the world doesn’t live with the fear of polio thanks to incredibly safe and effective vaccines, consistent and full funding of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a global commitment of leaders, and millions of heroic health workers and vaccinators who immunize more than 400 million children each year. But for parents and children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria -- the threat of this crippling disease remains.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes in the article that describe why we can’t stop at 99% and we must finish the job.
- “…if you don’t stay on top of the [polio] virus until the very last case of the very last strain is wiped out, polio will break free again.”
Estimates show failure to eradicate polio could lead within a decade to as many as 200,000 paralyzed children a year worldwide.
- “…the medical infrastructure put in place to get the polio vaccine out there – the supply chains, volunteer networks and innovations like GPS trackers on vaccine shipments to prevent them from going astray – can then be repurposed to fight other diseases. But the polio battle must first be won.”
Ending polio is a critical step in showing the way toward protecting all children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Polio efforts are reaching children who have never been reached before, which opens the door to their benefiting from other global health and development resources.
- “Fighting these periodic outbreaks gets expensive, which is why eradication is the most cost-effective goal.”
Eradicating polio also could result in at least US$40-50B in savings by 2035, freeing up resources to tackle other pressing global health priorities.
- “When it does happen – when polio joins smallpox in the supermax lockdown of the lab – it will be an existential as much as a medical victory. Viruses and bacteria have had their way with humans since the dawn of history – a species vs species war we too often lost. We are on the brink of wiping out a virus that richly deserves extinction. The war may be slow, but there is no tonic like a big victory over a disease to ensure there will be more victories to come.”
If you don’t have a TIME subscription, you can check out an emotionally moving photo essay here, which includes a heartbreaking photo of a father who refused to vaccinate his child who then contracted polio.