Economic Benefits of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Estimated at US$40-50 BillionBy Kid Risk Inc., PRNE
Sunday, November 21, 2010
New study in Vaccine offers strong economic justification for finishing the job on polio as quickly as possible
BOSTON, November 22, 2010 - A new study released today estimates that the global initiative to
eradicate polio could provide net benefits of at least US$40-50 billion if
transmission of wild polioviruses is interrupted within the next five years.
The study provides the first rigorous evaluation of the benefits and costs of
the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)-the single largest project
ever undertaken by the global health community. The study comes at a crucial
time-following an outbreak in the Republic of the Congo and one in Tajikistan
earlier this year-that highlight the risk of delays in finishing the job on
Published in the journal Vaccine, the study, "Economic Analysis of the
Global Polio Eradication Initiative," considers investments made since the
GPEI was formed in 1988 and those anticipated through 2035. Over this time
period, the GPEI's efforts will prevent more than 8 million cases of
paralytic polio in children. This translates into billions of dollars saved
from reduced treatment costs and gains in productivity.
The study also reported that "add-on" GPEI efforts improve health
benefits and lead to even greater economic gains during the same time period.
Notably, it estimates an additional $17-90 billion in benefits from life
saving effects of delivering vitamin A supplements, which the GPEI has
supplied alongside polio vaccines.
"Polio eradication is a good deal, from both a humanitarian and an
economic perspective," said Dr. Radboud Duintjer Tebbens of Kid Risk, Inc.,
the lead author of the study. "The GPEI prevents devastating paralysis and
death in children and also allows developing countries and the world to
realize meaningful financial benefits."
According to the study, although delays in achieving eradication are
costly, even with delays, the GPEI still generates positive net economic
"Investing now to eradicate polio is an economic imperative, as well as a
moral one," said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation's Global Health Program. "This study presents a clear case for
fully and immediately funding global polio eradication, and ensuring that
children everywhere, rich and poor, are protected from this devastating
The GPEI successfully reduced the global incidence of polio by 99 percent
since 1988 and eradicated type 2 wild polioviruses in 1999. Intense efforts
are underway to stop transmission of types 1 and 3 completely within the next
several years, with indigenous transmission remaining only in relatively
small areas in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan and re-established
transmission in a few countries, including Angola and the DRC. Until
eradication occurs, all countries remain at risk for importation of the
virus, as demonstrated by the 2010 polio outbreaks in Tajikistan and the
Republic of the Congo. Congo's recent outbreak has resulted in more than 200
cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) since October, mostly affecting people
older than 15.
"Studies like this help people put numbers on the value of prevention,"
said Dr. Kimberly Thompson of Kid Risk, senior author of the study. Nobody
questions the value of eradication in developed countries where polio is
fortunately just a fading memory, but according to Thompson, "prevention
activities like vaccination often go unappreciated, because it is difficult
to count cases of a disease that do not occur." The study provides an example
of the real value that comes from international cooperation and investment in
the health and development of children.
The study examined the 104 countries that directly benefit from the GPEI,
which include predominantly lower-income countries. Many higher-income
countries eliminated wild polioviruses before the GPEI began. Thus, the
estimated net benefits in the study do not include the substantial benefits
already accruing in developed countries.
The study was led by Kid Risk, Inc., an independent non-profit
organization started in 2009 as the successor to the Kids Risk Project at the
Harvard School of Public Health. Other research partners included the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Delft University of
Technology, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The CDC provided
support for the study under a contract to the Harvard School of Public
GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments,
spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the CDC,
and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and supported by
organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Link to Kid Risk, Inc. www.kidrisk.org/mainFrame/poliopub18.html Link to Vaccine www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/0264410X
Kimberly Thompson, +1-617-680-2836, kimt at kidrisk.org, or Radboud Duintjer Tebbens, +1-857-383-4235, rdt at kidrisk.org, both of Kid Risk, Inc.
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