Blogs

At Vaccine Summit, Can Canada Take the Lead to End Polio?

THIS IS THE FOURTH BLOG IN OUR WORLD IMMUNIZATION WEEK SERIES, WHICH WILL HIGHLIGHT AN IMMUNIZATION ADVOCACY GOAL EACH DAY.
TODAY'S BLOG FOCUSES ON IMMUNIZATION ADVOCACY GOAL #3: FULL FUNDING FOR UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO IMMUNIZATION IS RAISED IN A SUSTAINABLE MANNER. 

Julie Savard-Shaw is a Campaigns Officer for RESULTS Canada, focusing on vaccines advocacy.

Canada occupies a unique position in the global campaign to eradicate polio – a disease on the brink of becoming the second human disease ever to be eradicated.

We were the first country to donate to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and over the last decade Canada has consistently contributed about $30-35 million every year. 

But at a critical point in the fight to finally end polio, Canadian spending to the GPEI is set to decline. Canada’s pledge amounts to only $14.5 million for 2013 and just $5 million for 2014. This year, global health advocates are urging Canada to re-commit $250 million over 6 years to see through the eradication of polio.

Our ask comes at an important moment – today marks the first day of the Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi where the GPEI’s Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan, which provides a clear path forward to achieve polio eradication by 2018, will be launched.  .

Hosted by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi,  the meeting will also celebrate advances in ending polio – a highly infectious disease, usually affecting children under five, that invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis.

While there is no cure for polio, vaccines are effective in preventing the infection. Immunizing as many children as possible is therefore the only way to stop transmission of the disease.

According to the GPEI, the total number of polio cases has dropped from 350,000 globally in 1988, to approximately 200 cases in 2012. With Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan as the only remaining polio-endemic countries, we are on the brink of history:  eliminating polio in our lifetime.

But we are in danger of standing on the wrong side of history: Funding gaps in 2012 led to the cancelation and scaling back of polio eradication campaigns, and the GPEI estimates  there will be a funding gap of US$ 660 million in 2013.i

The Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan is a guide to obtain long-term predictable funding for polio eradication efforts until 2018. As global health advocates, we are particularly pleased to see the inclusion of routine immunization in the plan.

Polio eradication efforts also have positive spinoff effects for other areas of global health: Support to measles campaigns, the distribution of vitamin A supplements, and enhanced global surveillance and response capacity for epidemic-prone diseases are just three areas that have benefitted from polio eradication staff and infrastructure. Moreover, because polio vaccination workers have to reach all children, including children who have never been reached with health interventions before, it is important to use this opportunity to deliver other vital vaccines.

By investing in the GPEI, Canada has signaled its support of an effective mechanism that has developed a sustainable and all-encompassing strategy to finally eliminate this disease. For the plan to be successful, donors must meet their pledges and agreed-upon financing commitments as well as increase future funding.

Eradicating polio is no longer a question of technical or scientific feasibility; it is a question of political will.

Follow us on Twitter @ResultsCda to see how Canada’s commitment shapes up at the Vaccine Summit.


http://www.polioeradication.org/financing.aspx