Thanks To Vaccination, Polio Could Be Eradicated Worldwide Within A Year

An aggressive worldwide vaccination program has brought us to the point where we may soon be able to declare the eradication of Polio. That is a great thing and another argument against the anti-vaxxers.

Thanks to an aggressive vaccination program in the third world, public health experts are hoping they can formally announce that polio has been wiped out:

Experts are hoping that polio could be wiped out by the end of the year, despite stubborn pockets of the disease remaining in a handful of countries.

Polio, a highly infectious childhood disease, was once prevalent throughout the world but has been eradicated in most countries thanks to vaccination.

The number of cases of polio has plummeted over the past 30 years, from around 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 22 in 2017, leading experts to predict the disease’s imminent demise. But so far their hopes have been dashed.

There are just three countries in the world that have yet to be declared polio free: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative there have been eight cases of polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan so far this year, compared to five at the same point the year before.

In a press briefing to give an update on polio eradication efforts Michel Zaffran, director of polio eradication at the World Health Organization, said he was hopeful that the disease could be eradicated by the end of this year or next.

“We are closer than we have ever been before to wiping out this virus. The next few months will tell us if we may be able to finish the job this year as this is the time when the virus is circulating,” he said.

But he added: ”We may need another year.”


According to the Global Polio Eradication Inititative 10 billion doses of oral polio vaccine were given worldwide between 2000 and 2011 and there were 20 outbreaks of vaccine derived virus, resulting in 580 cases of polio.

Zaffran said efforts to eradicate the disease must be redoubled.

“The failure to stop the virus now would result in a great resurgence of polio and the possibility of 200,000 cases every year for the next 10 years. Eradicating polio will be a major milestone in human history.”

Before now, there is only one virus that has been officially declared as having been eradicated. In 1980, the World Health Organization declared that the Smallpox Virus had been eradicated from the world, thus bringing to an end a virus that had been responsible for the death of millions throughout human history. Polio isn’t deadly in the same sense that Smallpox was, of course, but it did result in paralysis and other health complications that struck people regardless of their age, health, or social position. The first polio vaccine consisted of an inactive form of the virus that was first developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955. Six years later, an oral form of the vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin. Both vaccines have been used in the ensuing decades as appropriate and have resulted in the near total eradication of the virus in the ensuing decades. Initially, of course, the major success of the vaccination program came in the United States and the rest of the industrialized world. From there, public health experts have slowly succeeded in spreading the vaccinations around the world with a remarkable degree of success. As recently as 1988, for example, there were a reported 350,000 verified cases of Polio around the world. By 2016, that number was reduced to just 37, although it has proven somewhat more difficult to complete the vaccination in the three nations that have yet to be declared Polio-free, and there have also been some cases of the illness reported in places such as Syria in the years since the civil war there began in 2011. (Source)

As with the success with Smallpox, as well as childhood illnesses such as Measles, this is yet more evidence in favor of the effectiveness and importance of vaccination. It’s also yet another reason why the so-called anti-vaxxer movement, which is largely led by ill-informed people who continue to spread lies about vaccination such as the disproven link between childhood vaccination and autism, is so dangerous. If these people had their way, then disease like Smallpox would still exist in the wild and Polio would continue to plague the world. Instead, thanks to science and common sense, we are on the verge of eradicating a disease that has increased human misery and shortened lifespans for millennia. Anyone who denies that this is a good thing is either willfully ignorant or just plain evil.




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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. rachel says:

    Let it be so.

  2. CSK says:

    But…but…our revered president says vaccines cause autism! And he should know. After all, he’s the guy who doesn’t know the difference between HIV and HPV, and claims to know more about ISIS than “the generals” because he watches “the shows.”

  3. Slugger says:

    I remember the mid 1950s when municipal swimming pools would close in the Midwest as around 20,000 cases of paralysis in children would strike our nation every year. Then I remember lining up outside the local high school as mass vaccinations started. We bless the memory of Drs. Salk and Sabin, true benefactors of humanity.

  4. Hal_10000 says:

    My mom grew up knowing people who’d had polio. She talked about how people would be terrified when an outbreak would occur. She was born under a President disabled by it. I, by contrast, have never known anyone who had polio. And, if this happens, my children will regard polio as some legend in the distant past. This is one of the great triumphs in history.

    (PS – Smallpox isn’t the only virus eradicated; rinderpest was rendered extinct as well although that only infects animals.)

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    …just plain evil.

    I’ll go with that.
    Never forget that opposition to vaccines means active support for the spread of disease that kills children.

  6. Kathy says:

    When vaccines finally eradicate polio, no doubt the anti-vaxxers will come up with a new conspiracy theory that there was never such a thing as polio.

    I’d point to Holocaust denial in support, but I’m continually amazed what kind of outrageous claims conspiracy nuts can come up with, like this one about centuries of history being made up for some reason:

    Phantom time

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Eradicating polio. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we believe the evidence and decide to just go ahead and solve a problem.

  8. Mu says:

    Polio eradication only had to fight some hardcore fanatical Imams with weird ideas about religion.
    Measles are up against the self-righteous California and London moms, much more dangerous an adversary.

  9. @Mu:

    They also have to go up against “celebrities” who have irresponsibly spread the false claims of the anti-vaccination crowd, a group that includes the current President of the United States.

  10. @Doug Mataconis: this is correct. Those idiots have probably gotten people killed.