The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have announced they will donate $1.2 billion to help eradicate polio globally and specifically in two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the virus is endemic.
The money will be used to counter new outbreaks linked to variants of the virus. Pakistan has recorded twenty cases of polio this year, all in the northwest part of the country. Afghanistan, where there have been two cases this year, until recently had no vaccines due to the violence and the ban imposed by the Taliban. Last year, before returning to power, the Taliban had reached an agreement with the United Nations to allow doctors to start a vaccination campaign.
Melinda Gates and Bill Gates together during “One World: Together At Home” presented by Global Citizen on April 18, 2020. The broadcast held to support frontline healthcare workers and COVID-19
The ten-figure donation comes after poliovirus cases were seen in both upstate New York and London, leading officials to monitor cases and ramp up calls for vaccinations.
The cases are believed to come from vaccine-derived polio: People vaccinated with live poliovirus can shed it in their stool, where it can spread through sewage, mutate, and then infect others it comes in contact with. New York declared an emergency last month after the virus was found in a fourth county besides New York City, and the state began monitoring wastewater after a case of vaccine-derived polio caused paralysis in a 20-year-old unvaccinated man in Rockland, Maine.
Many of the New York counties where the virus has been found have polio vaccination rates well below the national average.
In London, health officials announced a new vaccination campaign in August to boost coverage in children under 10, after the vaccine-derived poliovirus was detected for the first time in decades in northern and central wastewater. east of London.
Poliomyelitis is a contagious disease transmitted primarily through contact with fecal samples and occasionally by coughing and sneezing. Before the polio vaccine was developed in 1955, approximately 15,000 people in the United States developed paralysis from the disease each year, according to the CDC. Poliovirus has been eliminated in many countries around the world as a result of mass vaccination campaigns, including the GPEI, which was launched in 1988 and is one of the largest global public health initiatives in history. However, the virus is still circulating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where political instability and protracted conflict have hampered vaccination campaigns. In 2021, about 75 percent of Afghan children aged 12 to 23 months had been fully vaccinated against polio, while 83 percent had been vaccinated in Pakistan, according toUNICEF . The Gates Foundation has given nearly $5 billion to the GPEI initiative in the past, while governments of high-income countries and other non-profits have also contributed.