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Has the billion dollar crusade to eradicate polio come to an end?

29 July 2021
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As Covid-19 overran the world, the extensive surveillance and response capacities of the polio eradication programme pivoted towards this new threat. Now, in a surprise move by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the reorientation looks permanent—perhaps ending a decades long, multibillion dollar crusade engineered by some of the most powerful actors in global health. WHO’s reordering of priorities may also point to a reassertion of its primacy in setting and administering global public health policy. One element of WHO’s decision is to integrate polio immunisation into routine immunisation programmes. Zulfiqar Bhutta, a paediatrician at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan notes that “you have to strengthen everything else,” and, until now, “none in the program wanted to do that.”