Gates Foundation pledges $1.2B to aid global polio eradication efforts

At the World Health Summit, ahead of tomorrow’s polio pledging event, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed $1.2 billion toward efforts to end polio worldwide.

The money will support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and its efforts to scale up the use of the novel oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), a vaccine by Bio Farma that was 10 years in the making. The vaccine has been recommended under the WHO’s emergency use listing and recently secured a purchase contract with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for 2022 and 2023.

GPEI’s goal is to reach 370 million children yearly with polio vaccines and other health services. The coalition is aiming to stop outbreaks of new polio variants and end wild poliovirus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last two endemic countries by “deepening relationships” with communities, supporting governments in response to outbreaks and aiding in the advancement of a next-generation polio vaccine rollout.

“Polio eradication is within reach. But as far as we have come, the disease remains a threat. Working together, the world can end this disease,” said Bill Gates, who urged other donors to support the strategy, which requires $4.8 billion in funding. 

Thus far, the GPEI has helped to reduce polio cases around the world by more than 99%, helping to prevent an estimated 20 million cases of polio paralysis since 1988. However, efforts have been hindered by interruption in routine immunization, vaccine misinformation, political unrest, and the floods in Pakistan this year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation statement said.

Despite the initiative’s best efforts, the virus has recently been reported in countries that had once eliminated all forms of it, including the United States and the United Kingdom, which were both added to the WHO’s 2022 outbreak list.