Though polio has been nearly eradicated from the globe, researchers have made a troubling discovery that underscores the need to boost vaccination rates in countries that have seen recent outbreaks as well as develop new, more potent vaccines.
In light of news that polio has once again emerged as a public health emergency, vaccinemakers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi are reportedly on watch.
Back in November, the GAVI Alliance added inactivated poliovirus vaccines to the list of products it makes available in the world's poorest countries. Now UNICEF is adding its backing, striking a deal with Sanofi to supply the vaccine to GAVI-supported countries for as little as $1 per dose.
When the number of Syrians fleeing their war-torn state to live in neighboring countries topped two million, the United Nations refugee head called the situation a "humanitarian calamity." Now it is getting worse, with the potential for the refugees to carry polio across the Middle East and Europe causing alarm.
The polio outbreak in Syria has the World Health Organization worried. Just weeks after outlining a two-month, 10-million dose vaccination campaign, the United Nations' public health arm has escalated its plans. The new goal is to vaccinate 50 million kids across the Middle East over the next 8 months.
Samples taken in Gaza and the West Bank have been consistently negative for the polio virus since 2002, but the virus has now surfaced in sewage in the south. An emergency response is under way.
A recent decline of polio cases has emboldened scientists to again set a target for eradication of polio. More than 400 scientists from 80 countries have signed up in support of a plan to end polio by 2018.