The proverbial elephant in the room when discussing problems facing the drive to eradicate polio is the role of Muslim boycotts on the basis of various conspiracy theories validated (or not dismissed) by local clerics; it is quite underrepresented as a contributing factor in this article. “Experts weigh giving up on killing polio,” by Maria Cheng for AP:
LONDON – Nearly 20 years ago, the World Health Organization and its partners launched an ambitious program to eradicate polio by the end of the millennium. That deadline passed and another was missed in 2005 “” and polio still strikes about 2,000 people a year, mostly children.
At a WHO meeting this week, some leading experts asked a grim question: Is it time to abandon the goal of eradication and focus instead on containing the disease? The answer, for most, was no “” even though many had doubts.
“Even if things quiet down in the countries where we have problems, there will be another area that bursts into flames,” said Dr. Ellie Ehrenfeld, who sits on the WHO Advisory Committee for Polio Eradication.
In a speech to participants, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan urged participants not to give up.
“We are facing our best and perhaps our last chance to eradicate polio,” she said, adding that leaving the job unfinished would squander the more than $5 billion invested so far because it would open the way for a resurgence of the disease.
The four polio-endemic countries “” Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan “” are also intent on ridding the world of the virus.
“We will spare no effort in eradicating polio,” said Naresh Dayal of India’s Ministry of Health and Welfare. This year, India will spend $286 million to fight the polio virus.
“While eradication is possible, we shouldn’t even consider moving to a control strategy,” said Dayal.
Different problems plague the four endemic countries: In Nigeria, the weak health system coupled with a vaccine boycott in some areas gets the blame; in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the virus moves back and forth across the border where the official focus is on the war on terror; in India, children are often infected with other viruses, making the
polio vaccine less effective.