Polio in developing countries
Poliomyelitis, or polio, is one of the world’s most enduring diseases.
It is highly contagious and tends to target children younger than five years of age. Polio attacks a person’s nervous system and causes paralysis in one out of every 200 cases. Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
The disease spreads from person to person most often through contact with the feces of an infected person or by ingesting contaminated water and food. People who live in communities with poor hygiene and sanitation conditions have an elevated risk of infection.
Before a polio vaccine was introduced in 1955, the disease was prevalent in Canada and affected thousands of children. Canada is now polio-free.
The race to eradicate polio by 2019
The goal of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) is to eradicate polio by 2019. It is a partnership between:
- the World Health Organization (WHO)
- Rotary International
- the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Since its establishment in 1988, the GPEI has achieved significant results.
The number of polio cases has been reduced by 99.99 %. This is a drop from an estimated 350,000 cases per year in more than 125 countries, down to 37 cases in 2016 in the final three remaining endemic countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria).
The type 2 strain of wild poliovirus was officially certified as eradicated in 2015, leaving two strains of wild poliovirus remaining.
Despite the strong progress towards eradicating the disease, there is still difficulty in interrupting poliovirus transmission in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. This demonstrates the importance of providing adequate surveillance, high levels of immunization coverage and the ability to respond quickly to outbreaks.
A plan to eliminate polio
The road map to eradicate polio by 2019 has four key objectives:
- increase the capacity of targeted national governments to detect and interrupt poliovirus transmission and more rapidly respond to new outbreaks
- strengthen national immunization systems
- withdrawing type 2 oral polio vaccines, since wild poliovirus type 2 is no longer circulating anywhere in the world
- contain poliovirus and certify the interruption of transmission
- strengthen national health systems by mainstreaming polio assets and infrastructure into broader health programs through a process known as legacy planning
What is Canada doing to help contain polio?
Canada was the first bilateral donor to the GPEI and has disbursed over CAD $600M since 2000. In October 2016, Canada fulfilled its $250 million commitment to the GPEI Endgame Strategy made at the 2013 Global Vaccine Summit. This global support has helped ensure that:
- surveillance systems are able to rapidly detect any new cases that emerge
- that every last child is reached with the polio vaccine
- that health workers have the capacity to respond to and control any outbreaks as soon as they arise
- the introduction of the inactive polio vaccine is supported
Canada, as a leading bilateral donor to the Polio Eradication Program in Afghanistan, provides support to UNICEF and WHO to help more children become protected by increasing national polio vaccination coverage and assisting those most vulnerable to infection.
We support the WHO to increase coverage of polio vaccinations in Nigeria. This is an initiative that supports polio supplemental immunization activities in high-risk states and intensifies routine immunization in select Local Government Areas.
Canada supports the WHO and UNICEF to stop transmission of the poliovirus in Pakistan. The program focuses on:
- increasing the number of children immunized
- enhancing community acceptance and the security of health workers, including female vaccinators, delivering the vaccine
- recruiting and training community-based vaccinators, including women, to help access hard to reach communities
- Polio (Health Canada)
- Travel health notice Polio
- Global Polio Eradication Initiative
- Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018
- Date Modified: