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Global Polio Eradication Initiative Launches 'Emergency Action Plan'

“A global initiative to rid the world of polio launched an emergency action plan on Thursday because gaps in funding and vaccination coverage threaten to derail a final push towards stamping out the paralyzing disease,” AlertNet reports (Rowling, 5/24). “Despite the dramatic drop in polio cases in the last year, the threat of continued transmission due to funding and immunization gaps has driven the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to launch an Emergency Action Plan,” a GPEI press release states. “‘Polio eradication is at a tipping point between success and failure,’ said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization,” the press release states. “We are in emergency mode to tip it towards success — working faster and better, focusing on the areas where children are most vulnerable,” she added, according to the release (5/24).

The plan, which aims to “boost vaccination in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only countries where the disease is still endemic,” “has been summarized as the ‘relentless pursuit of the unvaccinated child,'” according to BBC News, which adds, “Bruce Aylward, head of the WHO’s polio eradication campaign, said: ‘Over the last 24 months on three continents — in Europe, in Africa and in Asia — we have seen horrific explosive outbreaks of the disease that affected adults, and in some cases 50 percent of them died.” The news service writes, “Members of the WHO, meeting in Geneva, will vote this week on whether to declare polio eradication an ’emergency for public health'” (5/24). In an accompanying video report, BBC notes the WHO “originally set the year 2000 as its target for polio eradication, but the date was missed” (Foulkes, 5/24).