Benefits of polio eradication up to US$50 billion
The Rotary clubs of Farooqabad, Sheikhupura Aarzoo, and Sucha Souda, in Punjab, Pakistan, rallied to end polio and held a polio vaccination camp during National Immunization Days in July. More than one million Rotarians worldwide have contributed to the success of the GPEI. Photo courtesy of the Rotary Club of Sheikhupura Aarzoo
A new study estimates that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative could prevent more than eight million cases of paralytic polio and save US$40 billion to $50 billion, if the wild poliovirus is eradicated in 2012 or shortly thereafter.
Published online this month in the Vaccine journal, the study, “Economic Analysis of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative,” is based on actual and projected immunization costs and polio incidence from 1988 through 2035. Low-income countries would account for about 85 percent of the savings.
The study also estimates that the distribution of vitamin A supplements during National Immunization Days has prevented from 1.1 million to 5.4 million child deaths and saved between $17 billion and $90 billion in disease treatment costs.
"Polio eradication is a good deal, from both a humanitarian and an economic perspective," says the study’s lead author, Radboud J. Duintjer Tebbens, of the nonprofit Kid Risk Inc. "The GPEI prevents devastating paralysis and death in children and also allows developing countries and the world to realize meaningful financial benefits."
The study focuses on 104 countries, most of them lower-income, that have directly benefited from the GPEI since 1988 through reduced polio treatment costs and the prevention of lost productivity due to disability.
Not included in the study are the substantial benefits that continue to accrue in countries that have eradicated polio. In 2006, for example, estimates indicated that the United States had saved more than $180 billion because of its investment in immunization to become polio-free.
The study was produced by Kid Risk Inc., the Delft University of Technology, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the GPEI.
The incidence of polio has fallen by more than 99 percent worldwide since the GPEI began in 1988. Indigenous transmission of the wild poliovirus persists only in relatively small areas of Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Until eradication is complete, however, all countries remain at risk for the importation of the virus, as demonstrated by the polio outbreaks in Tajikistan and the Republic of the Congo this year.
By the time the world is certified polio-free, Rotary’s contributions to the global eradication effort will exceed $1.2 billion. In addition, Rotary has mobilized hundreds of thousands of volunteers in support of immunization activities.
Rotary also plays a leading role in soliciting financial support from national governments, which has amounted to more than $8.2 billion since 1988.
"This entire initiative began because of the vision of Rotary International," says Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, who calls the more than 1.2 million Rotarians "tireless partners in the polio eradication effort."
Says Robert S. Scott, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee: "The positive results of this study will, I am certain, increase even further the enthusiasm of Rotarians to fulfill their promise to the children of the world to eradicate polio."