The recent protection of the vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 case in New York, USA, and isolates in several environmental samples collected in London are stark reminders that as long as polio exists anywhere, it is a threat everywhere. It also highlights the importance of vaccination as the only form of protection against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases and the work that needs to be done in our communities to encourage the uptake of vaccines. Also, as the world gets closer to zero wild poliovirus cases, it is increasingly important to track all forms of the virus wherever they may appear, including in polio-free regions.
The US is still considered low risk for paralytic outbreaks of polio due to the high level of vaccine coverage across the population. If a child has received the entire course of vaccines, the risk of becoming paralyzed by polio is negligible. According to the centers for disease control and prevention, 92.6% of children aged 24 months are fully vaccinated against polio, slightly below the 95% world health organization target. The best things countries can do to protect themselves from polio until the disease is eradicated from the world are to: maintain high vaccination coverage and robust disease surveillance and be ready to respond in the event of an outbreak to minimize the risk and consequence of polio re-introduction or reemergence anywhere.
The world currently has a unique opportunity to stop virus transmissions for good. Still, all parties, including donors and country governments, must recommit to polio eradication by fully supporting the global polio eradication initiative (GPEI) 2022–2026 strategy. This focuses on adopting an emergency posture while generating greater accountability and ownership from country governments to eradicate wild polio and end variant poliovirus (cVDPV) outbreaks.
Rotary, a global service organization with over 1.4 million members, has been at the center of the worldwide effort to eradicate polio for over three decades. Every year, through our funding partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary commits $150 million to the global effort to eradicate polio. We have contributed more than $2.6 billion and countless volunteer hours to end polio forever. Together with our partners, we engage communities everywhere to encourage high vaccination rates, immunizing over 400 million children annually. More than 20 million people are walking today who otherwise would have been paralyzed because of our efforts and those of our partners in the GPEI. The time for urgent action is now. A new vaccine has been deployed – novel oral polio vaccine 2 (nOPV2) – which is more genetically stable to stop outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus effectively. With sustained political and financial commitments, the GPEI is confident that we can achieve a world in which no child is paralyzed by polio again.