5 Key Facts: Spotlight on Polio

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In 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries and paralyzing an estimated 350 000 children every year (close to 1000 cases a day) (25). In that year, the World Health Assembly (WHA) passed a resolution calling for global eradication of the disease by 2000. Read the full WHO State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization Report here.

  • In 1988 the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) came into existance to eradicate the disease by 2000.
  • By the end of 2007, the disease had been eradicated in three of WHO's six regions – the Americas, Europe, and the Western Pacific – but not worldwide.
  • The mass vaccination campaigns necessary to stop polio transmission did not kick off in Asia and Africa until the mid-1990s.
  • More recently, in 2003, unfounded rumours that the oral polio vaccine (OPV) was being used to sterilize young girls brought polio immunization to a halt for 12 months in at least one northern Nigerian state, unleashing a nationwide polio epidemic and the transcontinental reinfection of 20 previously polio-free countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
  • The 2008 World Health Assembly proved a turning point in polio eradication. Member States called directly on polio-endemic countries to remove the remaining operational barriers to reaching children in all areas. Underpinning the WHA's resolution was
    the recognition that eradicating polio is an essential step towards meeting the MDGs.

Read the full WHO State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization Report here.

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