SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Gates continues efforts to eradicate polio

Bill Gates recently called for a concerted effort by the world to wipe out any remaining polio cases and eradicate the disease, which has squeezed aid budgets and seen vaccination efforts plagued by violence.

Worldwide polio infections fell from 360,000 in 1988 to 223 in 2012 after the United Nations launched a campaign in 1988 to eliminate the disease, MedicalXpress.com reports.

"Just to contain it to say 100,000 (cases) a year, you're going to be spending a lot of money," Gates said, according to MedicalXpress.com. "And so anyone who thinks that giving up on polio saves money, you don't save money."

Only Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are still considered polio endemic. An Islamist insurgency in Nigeria's north, where at least 10 people have been killed in attacks, has stymied immunization campaigns. As a result, the country recorded the most polio cases in 2012.

At least 20 people have been killed in vaccine campaign-related attacks in Pakistan since December.

The global campaign to eliminate polio is currently spending approximately $900 million per year, with a potential six-year plan to eliminate the disease entirely set to be discussed at an upcoming Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi.

"If you just want to go into the 'keep it to 100,000 (cases)' mode, you could probably drop down to $500 million a year," Gates said, MedicalXpress.com reports. "But then you'll be spending $500 million for the rest of time instead of spending $900 million for six years, and you'll have 100,000 kids getting paralyzed every year - and you'll have this huge setback to global health."