Polio has not yet been fully eradicated, but significant progress has been made in reducing the number of polio cases worldwide due to widespread vaccination efforts. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), launched in 1988 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners, has played a crucial role in the decline of polio cases.
In 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries, with over 350,000 cases reported annually. As of 2021, wild poliovirus remains endemic in only two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. The number of reported polio cases has decreased by over 99% since the launch of the GPEI, with less than 200 cases reported in 2020.
One of the three serotypes of wild poliovirus, type 2 (WPV2), was declared eradicated in 2015, and type 3 (WPV3) was declared eradicated in 2019. Type 1 (WPV1) is the only remaining wild poliovirus serotype, and its eradication remains a top priority for the GPEI and global public health organizations.
The key strategies employed by the GPEI to eradicate polio include:
- Immunization: Widespread use of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) and inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) to protect children from polio and interrupt the transmission of the virus.
- Surveillance: Monitoring the circulation of wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPVs) through the testing of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases and environmental samples.
- Outbreak response: Rapid identification and containment of polio outbreaks through vaccination campaigns and enhanced surveillance.
- Targeted interventions: Implementing tailored strategies to reach children in hard-to-reach or conflict-affected areas, where vaccination efforts are often more challenging.
The complete eradication of polio would make it the second human disease, after smallpox, to be eradicated. Achieving this goal requires sustained global commitment, resources, and efforts to ensure that every child is vaccinated and that the remaining reservoirs of wild poliovirus transmission are eliminated.