An article in today’s LA Times about a massive polio immunization push in 20 African countries includes a beautiful and significant graphic–a map with red dots showing where polio cases exist in the world at the end of 2011. What’s remarkable is the absence of red dots in India, which in 2009 had 741 dots indicating the number of children who were stricken with this debilitating but vaccine-preventable disease. What’s even more remarkable is this map with the most recent data.
Just last month, the WHO confirmed that for the first time ever, India had no polio cases anywhere in the country. This is absolutely amazing when you consider that there are approximately 172 million children living in India, and protecting them from polio took a sustained effort by over two million dedicated vaccinators who wouldn’t let up until the job was done.
To see how far we’ve come, check out this map from 1988, which, in contrast to the map today, has red dots all over the world, representing the 125 countries where polio was endemic only 32 years ago. Today, thanks to India’s amazing success, we’re down to three countries where polio is endemic and, at the end of 2011, only 650 cases…in the whole world!
The launch of today’s campaign–which will reach 111 million children across 20 countries in just four days–is another significant step toward finishing the job on polio, an achievement that will change the course of history for millions of children throughout the world.
Success in India shows us that we can end polio once and for all.
India’s model, combined with the dedicated efforts of the countries that fund this effort and the vaccinators that are carrying it out, are what will lead us to the day when we can post a map without red dots anywhere, proving that vaccines work to ensure children will have a healthy start to life.