Building trust among poor people, through sustained education efforts about the benefits of polio vaccination, will be crucial to eradicating the disease, states an Editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.
In 1998, the World Health Assembly voted to eradicate polio by 2005 through WHO's Global Polio Eradication Initiative. In 1998, there were about 350 000 cases of polio worldwide; last year, there were just over 1200. But while substantial progress has been made, four countries--India, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan--remain polio-endemic. The disease has also re-emerged in some previously polio-free countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia. The response can only be new vaccination campaigns, states the Editorial. However, polio vaccination campaigns have met with distrust in some communities, which cite spurious but understandable fears that mass vaccination is part of some conspiracy by the developed world against poor countries.
The Lancet comments: "Although important, providing funding and the infrastructure for polio vaccination are not the whole issue. Just as important is building trust among poor and sometimes suspicious people, through sustained education efforts about the perils of not vaccinating…Funders and policy makers in polio vaccination will need to accept the concept that engaging community leaders, as well as target populations in poor communities, is not an option they can ignore."
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