Pitt Public Health Dean Endorses Comprehensive Polio Eradication Strategy

By Allison Hydzik

University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Dean Donald S. Burke, M.D., UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair of Global Health, today joined hundreds of scientists, doctors and other experts from around the world to launch the Scientific Declaration on Polio Eradication.

This declaration shows that ending the paralyzing disease is achievable and lays out a comprehensive new strategy to secure a lasting, polio-free world by 2018. The declaration coincides with the 58th anniversary of the announcement of Jonas Salk’s life-saving polio vaccine here in Pittsburgh.

Donald Burke, M.D.
 “Polio eradication began in Pittsburgh with Dr. Salk’s revolutionary vaccine,” Dr. Burke said. “It is entirely fitting that I lend my support to finishing his work. I believe that the plan proposed by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is achievable if it receives appropriate support from public health officials, organizations and governments here and worldwide.”

 The more than 400 signatories to the declaration urged governments, international organizations and civil society to do their part to seize the historic opportunity to end polio and protect the world’s most vulnerable children and future generations from this debilitating but preventable disease. The declaration calls for full funding and implementation of the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018, developed by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. With polio cases at an all-time low and the disease remaining endemic in just three countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan), the plan estimates that ending the disease entirely by 2018 can be achieved for a cost of approximately $5.5 billion.

Polio vaccines have already protected hundreds of millions of children from the disease and eliminated one of the three types of wild poliovirus, proving that eradication is scientifically feasible.

The declaration emphasizes that achieving polio eradication requires efforts interrelated with strengthening routine immunization. As the last cases of polio are contained, high levels of routine immunization will be critical. At the same time, resources and learning from polio eradication efforts can be used to strengthen coverage of other life-saving vaccines, including for children who have never been reached by health interventions before.