Why stop with eradicating polio when the eradication of measles is within our grasp? During more than 25 years of operations, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has mobilized and trained millions of volunteers, social mobilizers, and health workers; accessed households untouched by other health initiatives; mapped and brought health interventions to chronically neglected communities; and established a standardized, real-time global surveillance and response capacity.
Many of these polio assets have been applied in tandem to measles elimination, which has similar strategies and program implementation infrastructure needs. Since the beginning of GPEI in 1988, more than 13 million paralytic polio cases have been prevented through the use of polio vaccine; since 2001, 15.6 million measles deaths among children have been prevented with measles vaccination.
Does it make any sense to dismantle the polio assets and infrastructure in the next few years because of poor planning and lack of forward vision, only to have to reconstruct it later at greater expense and after lost momentum and human resource capacity? It is inexcusable not to seize this opportunity to prevent the 145,000 annual measles deaths still occurring worldwide and create a world free of both polio and measles.
As the initiative nears completion, the primary goals of transition planning for the GPEI are both to protect a polio-free world and to ensure that these investments — made to eradicate polio — contribute to future health goals such as measles eradication after the completion of polio eradication. As a practitioner who has spent decades on polio eradication — and as an advocate for measles eradication — my view is that transitioning from eradicating polio to measles is a no-brainer. It is both an opportunity and an obligation that should be taken for compelling reasons, including the close relationship between these two initiatives.
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