Study Estimates Cost Savings Associated With Global Polio Eradication; Global Post Examines Vaccination Efforts In Africa

Research published in the November issue of the journal Vaccine found that a global campaign to eliminate polio could save between $40 billion and $50 billion “over the next few decades if the crippling disease is wiped out within five years,” Bloomberg reports (Gale, 11/22).

The non-profit Kid Risk led the research, according to a press release, which notes that this “study provides the first rigorous evaluation of the benefits and costs of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) – the single largest project ever undertaken by the global health community.” The study “considers investments made since the GPEI was formed in 1988 and those anticipated through 2035,” according to the release (11/22).

Bloomberg reports that the GPEI “will prevent about 8 million cases of potentially deadly paralytic polio, while assisting the distribution of life-saving vitamin A, the study’s authors said. A $2.6 billion plan to root out the last vestiges of the disease by 2013 faces an $810 million funding gap” (11/22).

In the press release, the study’s lead author Radboud Duintjer Tebbens said, “The GPEI prevents devastating paralysis and death in children and also allows developing countries and the world to realize meaningful financial benefits.” The press release also includes a statement from Tachi Yamada, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, who said, “This study presents a clear case for fully and immediately funding global polio eradication, and ensuring that children everywhere, rich and poor, are protected from this devastating disease” (11/22).

In related news, Global Post examines polio vaccination in Africa. “The worldwide polio eradication campaign is practically … close to victory. Polio was endemic in 125 countries 25 years ago. Today the disease is prevalent in just four countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but there are outbreaks in several other countries,” Global Post writes.

While “new cases of polio are also declining … just 760 new cases through October this year, … [l]ocking down polio is proving difficult. Until polio is stopped in the endemic countries, outbreaks are inevitable elsewhere because the virus travels so easily.”

“We’ve had more than a 99 percent reduction, but our goal is zero cases,” John Sever, who has been working on the campaign since the early 1980s in different capacities. “We’re very close. But polio could rebound to 10 million cases in the next 40 years if we don’t lock this down,” he added.

The article examines how polio has now spread from Nigeria, after Muslim leaders in the north of the country forbade the vaccine, “and caused thousands of new cases in 20 previously polio-free countries, as far away as Indonesia.” The story features a volunteer polio vaccine worker, Joseph Adoubou, who travels door-to-door in Togo, and includes quotes from Ashok Mirchandani, director of Rotary International’s polio eradication campaign in Benin, and Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesman for the WHO (Maguire, 11/23).

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