In the United States, polio is probably best known as the disease that confined President Franklin D. Roosevelt to a wheelchair. Thanks to vaccinations, it’s been a long time since the disease posed a threat—unless you live in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These are the only two countries where residents are at risk of contracting this disease.
Pakistan has more than 70% of the cases of polio these days, but those numbers are dropping. There were only 54 instances of natural occurring polio viruses, according to recent statistics. That’s 80% less than in 2014. It’s a huge improvement, not a solution. Eradicating the disease requires serious attention or the virus will continue to thrive.
The solution is simple. It requires vaccinations for children. Recently, over 100,000 health workers spread out over the country to deliver those shots. It’s not an easy task. Islamic militants have attacked health teams, accusing them of being Western spies, or trying to sterilize the children. Just this year, 15 people were killed in a suicide bomber attack in Quetta at a polio eradication center.
While it may sound crazy to accuse health workers of such a thing, it’s not entirely without logic. Vaccines took a public relations blow after it came to light that a Pakistani doctor, employed by the CIA, used a polio vaccine campaign as a cover to spy on Osama bin Laden before the U.S. raid that killed him.
The sense of mistrust has lessened, and recent campaigns have been more successful and seen less violence, but there are still parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated.
The situation does somewhat mirror the anti-vaccination campaigns seen in the United States and the United Kingdom in recent years. In these western countries, a number of people have erroneously claimed that vaccinations lead to autism