Friday, November 11, 2005

Regaining ground

There was no good reason for polio to make its return to countries that had already eradicated it. But the good news is that 10 of those countries have once again beaten the disease:
An inoculation campaign has eradicated polio in 10 African countries where the deadly disease was reintroduced after 2003, when a vaccine boycott in Nigeria was blamed for an outbreak across Africa, the Middle East and Indonesia, the UN health agency said Friday.

The 10 countries were among 18 that had eliminated polio but saw it return after hardline Islamic clerics in Nigeria claimed the vaccine was part of a U.S.-led plot to render Muslims infertile or infect them with AIDS. Vaccination programs restarted in Nigeria in July 2004 after local officials ended the 11-month boycott...

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Bruce Aylward, co-ordinator of WHO's global polio eradication program. “The world can be polio-free in another 12 to 18 months everywhere, and the poorest countries in the world are committed to turning this around.”...

Polio is still classified as endemic in six countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt.
The original suspicion about the vaccine is an all-too-clear example about how unwarranted distrust can overcome even the best of intentions and plans. But fortunately, the bulk of the damage has now been overcome. As long as the international effort is allowed to continue, it may not be long before at least one preventable harm may actually be prevented on a worldwide scale.

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