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Fighting Polio to the Finish

The final stretch in the race against polio has proven the most difficult, and recent events have made the goal even more challenging. To finish the job, global donors must rise to the occasion and provide sufficient financial support for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

WASHINGTON, DC – When I took my children to receive their polio vaccines a few years ago, I thought about how lucky we are to live in a place where we can access lifesaving interventions with such ease. We didn’t need to take a long bus ride or walk great distances to get to the clinic, and there was no reason to think that there would be no doses in stock.

Although I was fully aware of the protection my children were receiving, I never considered that poliovirus could pose a real threat in Washington, DC. After all, the virus hadn’t been found in the United States for years. But recent developments are a wake-up call, underscoring just how critical something as simple and routine as vaccination can be.

In July, health authorities confirmed that polio had paralyzed an unvaccinated person in New York. It was the first US case in nearly a decade. Then, the virus was found in wastewater in other parts of New York State, which followed the news that London had also detected poliovirus in its sewage. The World Health Organization has now declared both the US and the United Kingdom outbreak countries for variant poliovirus.

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