February 10, 2011
In response to recent debate about whether polio eradication is possible, Sabin Executive Vice President Dr. Ciro de Quadros and Pan American Health Organization Deputy Director Dr. Jon Kim Andrus co-authored the following opinion piece for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Since the launch of Bill Gates’ annual letter last week, discussion has reopened an old debate among experts about whether the final push to eradicate polio is possible, or even worth the effort.
Some believe that the effort to fight polio should be “downsized” to a control program — one that simply aims to keep the disease at bay by limiting its reach. But as doctors and scientists who worked together to eradicate polio in the Americas, we know that the global eradication of polio is imminently achievable — and that giving up now, with 99 percent of the disease eliminated, would be nothing short of a tragedy.
To many, the cost of eradicating polio by 2013 — which experts put at $2 billion — sounds prohibitive, particularly in financially uncertain times. Even after generous contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other global donors, estimates indicate there remains a $720 million funding gap to get the job done.
To be sure, simply controlling polio — or limiting its reach — would mean lower costs in the short term. But there is ample evidence to suggest that taking this approach could have devastating — not to mention prohibitively expensive — long-term consequences.