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The Impact Of Bill And Melinda Gates On Polio Eradication

The effort to eradicate polio in our world


What's going on?

Polio is a disease that has affected millions of people globally, crippling many and becoming fatal in some cases. It has existed for thousands of years with depictions of the disease showing up in ancient art. Fortunately, in the 1950s, a vaccine was invented by Jonas Salk, which brought a revolution in polio prevention. An oral polio vaccine was later developed by Albert Sabin, which made immunization easier.


Despite the invention of the polio vaccine, there were still over 350,000 cases of polio worldwide 30 years later. Increased efforts were put in place to steadily reduce the number of cases and ultimately eradicate the poliovirus. Currently, polio is localized in only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, with only 12 cases between them in 2017. This improvement was primarily due to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched in 1988 as a mass immunization effort to orally vaccinate 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. In 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took part in the efforts of this initiative and have currently contributed nearly $3 billion to eradicate polio by 2020.


Despite the positive signs and a small number of cases in the present, there is a strong push to continue the effort. There are concerns that the disease may spread back into other nations with poor infrastructure leading to further challenges in eradicating it. The Gates Foundation and Rotary International recently announced their commitment to contribute up to $450 million to ensure the last case of polio could be seen by 2020.