Frustrated by the recurrence of the terrible disease in New York, Bill Gates has decided to take the course into his own hands. He has thus just promised $1.2 billion more to eradicate polio. The announcement was made on Sunday in Berlin by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which made the pledge to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. “By coming together and funding efforts like the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we can #EndPolio and build a healthier world, ” Gates tweeted on Oct. 15.
Bill Gates has chosen a trustworthy partner for this venture, The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership led by national governments with six core partners – the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.
Gates told Bloomberg in an interview;
“We’re very committed, I can’t say forever, but giving up would mean hundreds of thousands of kids being paralyzed. The new fund will help redouble and speed efforts to fight this disease, which has reappeared in recent months in regions where it was thought to have disappeared. A resurgence would jeopardize billions of dollars of investment over decades.”
A case of polio had been identified last summer in Rockland County, N.Y., half an hour north of Midtown Manhattan. Traces of the virus had also been detected in sewage in the U.K. and Israel, which suggested that the disease, which had been almost eradicated worldwide, had resurged. New York State and County health officials said;
“The individual experienced severe symptoms, including paralysis, and was hospitalized. New Yorkers should know that paralysis from polio is typically permanent, resulting in life-long disability.”
The last known case of polio in the U.S. was in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 7-month-old child who had just moved from India to the U.S. was diagnosed in San Antonio.
The World Health Organization in June warned that a type of poliovirus derived from the oral polio vaccine – which, in rare cases, can cause infection in others but not in the person vaccinated – had been detected in London sewage samples. It can cause severe illness and paralysis in unvaccinated people. Polio, which largely affects children under age 5, has been virtually eradicated worldwide, according to Unicef. Cases have fallen by 99% since 1988 when polio was still endemic in 125 countries and 350,000 cases were recorded. Polio remains endemic in two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Infections declined sharply in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the U.S., with the development of a vaccine. The last natural infection to have occurred in the U.S. dates from 1979. The Gateses, through their foundation, have already donated nearly $5 billion directly to the fight against polio.
For 2019-2023 some $4.2 billion is needed to eradicate polio through vaccination and other health services, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The program had $2.2 billion before Gates’ pledge. After the commitment, the funding shortfall is around $1.4 billion. Germany will co-host a pledge event at the World Health Summit on Oct. 18 in Berlin.
“India’s success against poliovirus showed the world that to #EndPolio, perseverance and collaboration are vital. @naveenthacker and over 1,300 leading global experts have urged the world to recommit to ending polio,” Gates posted on Oct. 15. The billionaire philanthropist had a sounded frustrated last summer after what he called setbacks. He said;
“Several huge global setbacks over the past few years have left many people discouraged and wondering whether the world is destined to get worse,” the co-founder of software giant Microsoft lamented on Twitter on July 13.
“The pandemic is one of the biggest setbacks in history. The war in Ukraine is a gigantic tragedy for the entire world. The damage from climate change is already worse than most models predicted. The U.S. has taken a huge step backward for gender equality and women’s health.” He later appeared somewhat optimistic, as if he’d been trying to persuade himself that he saw light at the end of the tunnel.
“But I’m still optimistic. These setbacks are happening in the context of two decades’ worth of historic progress and I believe it is possible to mitigate the damage and get back to the progress the world was making,” the entrepreneur said.