Photo: Stuart Ramson for UN Foundation
Sixty years ago, Jonas Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) gave new hope to parents in the U.S. that they could protect their children from what was, at the time, one of the most terrifying diseases facing Americans. Today, the world is nearly polio free, with a reduction in polio cases by over 99%, thanks in large part to IPV together with Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine.
Salk’s vaccine not only ignited the progress against polio; it will also play a critical role in the final years of the eradication strategy. The polio eradication program is using new approaches and tools to prepare for a polio-free world, including introducing IPV in all countries that do not currently use the vaccine in routine immunization. Introducing IPV around the world will help boost immunity and lock in gains made against polio through use of the oral polio vaccine. This is one of the most ambitious vaccine introductions in history.
But just because the world has made great progress in the fight to eradicate polio, there is no room for complacency. Significant challenges remain. We need to ensure that polio endemic countries and donor countries remain committed to eradicating this disease, which is why I am encouraged to see a show of support from a group of U.S. Senators.
Earlier this week, Senators Durbin and Kirk, along with several colleagues, introduced a resolution commemorating the discovery of the polio vaccine and supporting global efforts to eradicate the disease. This resolution highlights the profound impact that the Salk vaccine has had on polio eradication efforts and the importance of biomedical research and development, commends the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and encourages the U.S. Congress to continue to support GPEI and critical research and development.
This show of support is important. I want to thank Senators Durbin and Kirk for this resolution and for their long-time championship of polio eradication. With continued support, we will reach the end in our fight against polio.