The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commits $1.2 billion to end polio

The foundation pledged funds to eradicate polio globally and prevent resurgence of the virus.
Brittney Grimes
Blood sample tests positive with the polio virus.
Blood sample tests positive with the polio virus.

jarun011/iStock 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to commit $1.2 billion to support the efforts of ending polio. The disease was prevalent in more than 125 countries in 1988, the year the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched by the World Health Organization.

The prevalence of polio has been reduced by 99% since then, according to the Gates Foundation site. However, the goal is to eradicate the virus completely. The site mentions that as of today, the polio virus is found in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There have also been rising concerns with new detections of the virus in various other locations. Recently, New York has been making efforts to vaccinate locals since the detection of the virus in wastewater samples.

“The United States and United Kingdom each confirmed outbreaks of variant poliovirus and were added to the World Health Organization's outbreak list in September 2022. Malawi and Mozambique each detected cases of wild polio that originated abroad in 2022,” the GPEI site states. The money from the Gates Foundation will be used to further implicate the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s strategy and planning through 2026.

In 2012, at the World Health Assembly, 194 member states declared the eradication of polio a “programmatic emergency for global public health.” The Gates Foundation estimated that eradicating polio would create $14 billion in cumulative cost savings by 2050. The cumulative costs do not include additional health improvements that would occur from ending the virus, the Gates Foundation mentioned on their site.

The foundation stated that if it doesn’t completely eradicate polio, there could be a resurgence of 200,000 new cases annually. The GPEI previously created its Polio Endgame strategy for eradicating and containing polio, to create a world free of the virus.

The polio endgame plan, created from 2019 to 2023, initially focused on three pillars of eradication, integration and containment + certification, to end polio. Along with the key components, the GPEI also focused on research and innovations. The implementation of the strategy was to create “a world where no child will ever again be paralyzed by any poliovirus anywhere, while maintaining the functions to continue to benefit broader public health and development programs.”

The Gates Foundation said that polio eradication is a top priority for the foundation. It partners with the GPEI, having donated $5 billion to the governmental initiatives. It has contributed technical resources, along with targets vaccination campaigns and routine immunizations to prevent the spread of the virus as well.

To further prevent polio from becoming an epidemic and to eradicate the virus, the foundation has also contributed fundings to vaccine research and emergency operation centers in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has also improved polio surveillance and response to any outbreaks.

Overall, the foundation is optimistic about the future and eradicating the disease. “The last steps to eradication are by far the toughest. But our foundation remains dedicated to a polio-free future, and we're optimistic that we will see it soon,” said Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Our investments in polio eradication not only bring us closer to that critical goal, they build long-term resilience by bolstering health care infrastructure and ensuring we're prepared to respond to future pandemics,” he continued.

The announcement came days before the polio eradication pledging moment is set to take place on October 18th in Berlin, hosted by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

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