Thomas Abraham, a journalist who taught health reporting at the University of Hong Kong, has tried to answer this and other questions in his new book Polio: The Odyssey of Eradication. He says polio was held hostage by geopolitics, and traces the reason why countries opted for a weak vaccine against a strong virus. The author concludes that future global campaigns that zero in on just one disease must be weighed against the necessity of upgrading public health, especially in poorer countries.
In Nepal, indigenous polio was eliminated in 2000 after the country responded to WHO’s eradication goal by adding polio to its successful campaign of vaccination against other diseases. However, there were still polio cases in Nepal brought over the border from India. The last case of polio was detected in Rautahat district in 2010, and Nepal was finally declared polio free four years later.
In response to a query from Nepali Times this week, however, Abraham said Nepal is not out of the woods yet. “If polio re-emerges in India, particularly UP and Bihar, this would be a major challenge to Nepal,” he said. “Also, if levels of routine childhood immunisation fall in Nepal there is a danger of outbreaks of vaccine derived polio, as we are seeing in a number of countries.”