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Polio Eradication by 2018: A Pipe Dream

The organized effort to eradicate polio from the world began in 1988 as part of The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).1 The program was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  Rotary International,  the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO), working in partnership and primarily using the live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV) as the eradication tool.1

One of the original goals of the GPEI was to eradicate polio by the year 2000. That ambitious target, however, was missed.2 In 2013, members of the GBEI, “in consultation with national health authorities, global health initiatives, scientific experts, donors and other stakeholders,” developed the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018, aimed at eradicating polio by 2018.3 The plan was released on April 11, 2013.4 

The word is getting out—we’re now in the final stages of achieving the eradication of polio. It’s the endgame. The expectations and momentum are building. We’re almost there. You just have to read some of the headlines: “Polio: we need one last push to eradicate the misery,”5 “Africa Nears Eradication of Polio,”6 “Africa’s year free of polio is giant step towards eradication,”7 “A polio milestone: One strain left in the crosshairs,”8 and “Can the eradication of polio be one of mankind’s greatest achievements?”9 You can feel it. We’re so close.

Here’s why it’s not going to happen. Not in 2018, and probably not anytime soon after that. According to  Neetu Vashisht, MD and Jacob Puliya, MD of St. Stephens Hospital in Delhi, India:

The charade about polio eradication and the great savings it will bring has persisted to date. It is a paradox, that while the director general of WHO, Margret Chan, and Bill Gates are trying to muster support for polio eradication it has been known to the scientific community, for over 10 years, that eradication of polio is impossible. This is because in 2002 scientists had synthesised a chemical called poliovirus in a test-tube with the empirical formula C332, 652H492, 388N98, 245O131, 196P7, 501S2, 340.

It has been demonstrated that by positioning the atoms in sequence, a particle can emerge with all the properties required for its proliferation and survival in nature. Wimmer writes that the test-tube synthesis of poliovirus has wiped out any possibility of eradicating poliovirus in the future. Poliovirus cannot be declared extinct because the sequence of its genome is known and modern biotechnology allows it to be resurrected at any time in vitro.10 

There’s also a second reason: wild poliovirus is being detected in sewers around the world. Just in the past few years, wild poliovirus samples have been found in sewers in Finland, Poland, Israel, and Brazil.11 12 13 14 It’s unclear how the viruses got there. One explanation, though, is that it may have come from individuals infected with the poliovirus, who were asymptomatic carriers and transmitters. It is well known that both wild-type and vaccine strain viruses are shed during infection and after vaccination, and these asymptomatic children and adults could have “shed” the poliovirus through “body fluids, such as saliva, nasal and throat secretions, breastmilk, urine and blood, stool, [or] skin lesions.”15

These people excrete polioviruses for months, even years after being immunized with oral polio vaccine, making them a potential—and invisible—reservoir for the virus.16

A study published in 2015 by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in the United Kingdom revealed the case of a British man who was vaccinated with the oral polio vaccine (OPV) as a child and has been shedding live mutated poliovirus in his feces for the last 28 years.17

The examples of the “silent circulation” of wild poliovirus in these three countries suggest that there may be other well-vaccinated countries where wild poliovirus is living quietly and undetected—notably countries like the United States and Canada, as well as most countries in Europe, which only use the injected inactivated (killed) polio vaccine (IPV) instead of live attenuated OPV. However, the IPV apparently does not sufficiently protect the intestinal tract against poliovirus infection.”18

The U.S. now exclusively uses IPV and it is likely that wild polioviruses are present in U.S. sewage, although as mentioned above the US does not search for poliovirus in sewage.18

Notes Suzanne Humphries, MD, “It’s only a matter of time before I think they will start testing the sewers in the United States; find that there’s a virus, a polio virus… “19 If so, polio eradication would suddenly seem a very distant dream indeed.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of pharmaceutical companies dumping poliovirus into rivers, as did the British firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) last year. On September 2, 12 gallons of concentrated live poliovirus flowed into the water supply in the city of Rixensart, Belgium from a GSK polio vaccine manufacturing plant.20

The contaminated water then flowed to a water treatment plant, and from there into the Lasne and Dyle rivers.20

Polio eradication by 2018? More like a pipe dream.


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Global Polio Eradication Initiative Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) Program—1999–2013Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report June 21, 2013.
2 James I. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Centre for History in Public Health (website) Aug. 28, 2015.
3 Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018. GBEI (website).
4 Edmundson L. Polio To Be Eradicated By 2018? The Disease Daily Apr. 12, 2013.
5 Nossal G, Stanley F. Polio: we need one last push to eradicate the misery. The Age Oct. 20, 2015.
6 St. Fleur N. Africa Nears Eradication of Polio. The Atlantic Nov. 21, 2014.
7 Africa’s year free of polio is giant step towards eradication. The Guardian Aug. 11, 2015.
8 Branswell H. A polio milestone: One strain left in the crosshairs. STAT Nov. 10, 2015.
9 Abernathy P. Can the eradication of polio be one of mankind’s greatest achievements? Global Citizen Oct. 20, 2015.
10 Neetu Vashisht N, Puliya J. Polio programme: let us declare victory and move on. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics 2012; 9(2).
11 Branswell H. Finland Looks for a Mystery Person Spreading Poliovirus. The Atlantic Aug. 15, 2011.
12 Kuryk L, Wieczorek M, Böttcher S. Genetic analysis of poliovirus strains isolated from sewage in PolandJournal of Medical Virology July 2014; 86(7).
13 World Health Organization (WHO). Poliovirus detected from environmental samples in Israel—update. WHO.int July 15, 2013.
14 WHO. Detection of poliovirus in sewage, Brazil. WHO.int June 18, 2014.
15 Fisher BL. The Emerging Risks of Live Virus & Virus Vectored Vaccines: Vaccine Strain Virus Infection, Shedding & Transmission. NVIC.org November 2014, p. 13.
16 Branswell H. Sewage Science: Stalking a Threat to Polio Eradication in the World’s Sewers. PulitzerCenter.org June 16, 2011.
17 Whiteman H. Man sheds deadly polio virus in feces for 28 years. Medical News Today Aug. 28, 2015.
18 Implications of finding poliovirus in sewers of Brazil and Israel Virology Blog. June 28, 2014.
19 Mercola, J. Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History: A Special Interview with Dr. Suzanne Humphries. Mercola.com Jan. 18, 2015.
20 Gutierrez D. GSK dumps live polio virus into Belgian rivers used for swimming and fishing. Natural News Sept. 19, 2015.

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