Ireland Pledges Support To End Polio
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, announced new Irish support for the global effort to end polio at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi last week. Minister Costello pledged that, through Irish Aid, the Government will provide €5 million over the next five years to eradicate the disease.
At the Summit, world leaders pledged their support for a new six-year plan to deliver a polio-free world by 2018. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) presented a six-year plan to eradicate all types of polio disease – wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived cases – simultaneously.
Announcing Ireland’s pledge, the Tánaiste said: “Many of us in Ireland can recall the fear of polio in our own country. In my lifetime polio destroyed the lives of many Irish people, and it was not until a rigorous vaccinationprogramme was introduced in the 1950s and 1960s that we eliminated the scourge of this terrible disease.
“The Irish memory of polio is fresh. It is right and just that we should now join the effort to finally eradicate polio from the rest of the world too. I said to Bill Gates when he visited Dublin in February, that Ireland would play its part in this fight, and we are now demonstrating that we will.”
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) six-year plan capitalises on the best opportunity to eradicate polio, with the number of children paralysed by the disease at the lowest level ever. The urgency is linked to the advances made in 2012 and the narrow window of opportunity to seize on that progress and stop all poliovirus transmission before polio-free countries become re-infected.
Global leaders and philanthropists pledged close to three-quarters of the plan’s projected US$5.5 billion cost over six years. They also called upon additional donors to commit up front the additional US$1.5 billion needed to ensure eradication.
The Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 was developed by the GPEI in extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders. The plan incorporates the lessons learned from India’s success becoming polio-free in early 2012 and cutting-edge knowledge about the risk of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses. It also complements the tailored Emergency Action Plans being implemented since last year in the remaining polio-endemic countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – including approaches in place to vaccinate children in insecure areas.
The Vaccine Summit is being co-hosted by Bill Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and the His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayad bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
“Ending polio is a critical step in helping us reach mothers and children with life-saving vaccines and additional health services,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “I’m confident that with new partners and a fully funded eradication plan we can achieve a polio-free world.”
In announcing this commitment, Ireland joins a number of other donors and funders at the summit that similarly made public pledges of support for vaccination and polio eradication. Estimates suggest that by ending polio, the world could save between US$40 and US$50 billion, about a tenth of the cost of eradication.
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