WASHINGTON, DC – Today, we are one step closer to a world without polio. The Sabin Vaccine Institute, founded in memory of oral polio vaccine creator Dr. Albert Sabin, applauds the tremendous achievement by the global polio community in eradicating wild poliovirus type 3.

When Cuba eliminated polio in the 1960s, Dr. Sabin had a vision. If this disease could be eliminated in one country, he said, “we might be able to do it everywhere.” He dedicated the rest of his life to that dream, and with today’s announcement, we are closer than ever to seeing it come true. At the outset of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, polio paralyzed more than 1,000 children every day. Thirty years later, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunized against polio and the number of cases has been reduced by 99 percent, with fewer than 100 cases reported this year.

Wild poliovirus type 3, last seen in Nigeria in 2012, is one of three strains of the virus, all of which cause irreversible paralysis and even death. With the eradication of wild poliovirus type 2 declared in 2015, type 1 is the only remaining wild poliovirus.

Polio eradication is far from simple and long from finished. Wild poliovirus type 1 remains in circulation only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where conflict, instability, population movement and other challenges threaten progress. Virus spillover into countries with weak health systems could result in reintroduction of wild poliovirus type 1 and low vaccination rates put children at risk of paralysis even where wild viruses have been eliminated.

“At a time when the wins are hard-fought and far-between, the eradication of wild poliovirus type 3 is a much-needed reminder that just as the global community coalesced to eradicate smallpox, we can and we will make polio history,” said Dr. Bruce Gellin, president of Global Immunization at the Sabin Vaccine Institute. “We have come this far thanks parents and caregivers who ensure that their children are protected and to the unflagging efforts of organizers, advocates and the brave individuals who put themselves in harm’s way to ensure every child is protected from this deadly disease. But as we celebrate this accomplishment, we must remember that progress against wild poliovirus type 1 is precarious. Now, more than ever, we must recommit to realizing Dr. Sabin’s vision of a world without polio.”

About the Sabin Vaccine Institute

The Sabin Vaccine Institute is a leading advocate for expanding vaccine access and uptake globally, advancing vaccine research and development, and amplifying vaccine knowledge and innovation. Unlocking the potential of vaccines through partnership, Sabin has built a robust ecosystem of funders, innovators, implementers, practitioners, policy makers and public stakeholders to advance its vision of a future free from preventable diseases. As a non-profit with more than two decades of experience, Sabin is committed to finding solutions that last and extending the full benefits of vaccines to all people, regardless of who they are or where they live. At Sabin, we believe in the power of vaccines to change the world. For more information, visit www.sabin.org and follow us on Twitter, @SabinVaccine.

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Anupama Varma