Should polio vaccinations be ended?

Polio has been eradicated from the western hemisphere since 1994, but the debate about ending polio vaccinations continues. Polio is an abbreviation for poliomyelitis, a crippling disease of the spinal cord caused by the polio virus. The disease leads to muscle wasting and paralysis, and posed a serious public health hazard in previous years. Though still a threat in South Asia and Africa, there were only 4,000 polio cases reported worldwide in 1996, a decrease of 90% from 1988 when 35,000 cases were reported. Due to the success of the eradication campaign, the World Health Organization (WHO) plans to cease polio vaccination probably by the year 2005. This would save about $200 million in vaccination expenses in the U.S. each year.

Science (1997;277:779-780)

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