Finnegan's Take

Is polio eradication worth it?

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It’s a question that seems almost rhetorical to most public health advocates. “Of course,” they say. “If we can, we should.”

This is the conventional wisdom, often presumed to have been settled long ago and to be effectively beyond question.

But historian Dr William Muraskin from the City University of New York has just published a provocative new book which asks whether mobilising the global health community in the fight against polio is the best use of scarce resources. It has raised plenty of eyebrows but also some valid questions about the future direction of immunisation and development policy.

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  • Experts believe polio is close to being eradicated, banished from 99% of the World’s population
  • Eradication effort has taken longer and been more expensive than expected
  • New book claims a small number of experts hijacked WHO agenda in 1980s to change global health priority from primary healthcare to ‘the more glamorous goal’ of eradication
  • After polio: Debate on whether to pursue new eradication campaigns or switch back to building primary health systems and routine immunisation programmes