Polio vaccination in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Burnet Institute Deputy Director Professor Mike Toole AM has joined eminent Australian scientists Sir Gustav Nossal and Professor Fiona Stanley in launching the Scientific Declaration on Polio Eradication.
Professor Toole is part of a global group of eminent scientists, doctors and experts declaring that polio can be eradicated by 2018.
More than 400 signatories are urging governments, international organisations and civil society to seize the opportunity to end polio and called for the implementation of the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018, developed by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
“The scientific declaration is an important affirmation that polio eradication is technically possible,” Professor Toole said.
“I have seen first hand how an extremely poor country like Chad can apply the science and vaccinate some of the most remote and hard-to-reach populations on earth; such as the nomadic Fulani cattle-herders on Lake Chad.
“As a result no wild polio cases have been reported in Chad since June 2012.”
Polio is at an all-time low, with only 223 new cases of wild poliovirus disease in 2012, a dramatic decrease of more than 99 per cent from the estimated 350,000 cases in 1988.
Polio still remains endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
“Eliminating the final one per cent of polio cases is not an easy job, but the barriers are not scientific or technical,” Professor Nossal said.
“All we need is political and societal commitment to create a polio-free world for future generations. The dividend will be huge, in humanitarian, symbolic and even financial terms.”
The Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan stressed the need to protect polio vaccination teams in light of the recent attacks on health workers in Pakistan and Nigeria, and also focused on strengthening routine immunisation.
The signatories to the declaration hail from 75 countries and include Nobel laureates, vaccine and infectious disease experts, public health school deans, paediatricians and other health authorities.
CLICK HERE to access the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan.