Gates Emphasizes Polio Eradication in Annual Letter

By Katie Delaney, Marketing Coordinator at InterAction.

Where will the Gates Foundation concentrate its budget this year?  On vaccines according to Bill Gates' Annual Letter, especially the polio vaccine, with a goal of eradicating the disease that has ravaged young bodies for decades.  Polio, which killed between forty- and fifty-thousand children in the U.S. in 1952, is now non-existent in all but four countries.  However, to completely eradicate the disease, extended efforts must be made in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

Yesterday Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, introduced this polio initiative in his 2011 annual letter. The letter in part answers the question: Why polio?  Gates sees three broad reaching benefits:

1. Children will no longer die or be paralyzed from the disease.

2. Eradicating polio will produce cost savings much greater than the cost of eradication ($50 billion over the next 25 years will be saved in treatment costs.)

3. This success will generate excitement in the field of global health, showing that investments lead to large successes. 

Other vaccines are important to Gates as well. Finding vaccines for malaria and HIV are the most cost effective way of fighting those diseases.  Much progress has been made on both fronts, but we must continue the momentum.

Gates also emphasized the importance of the first 28 days of a child's life.  After this time period, vaccines play a huge role in ensuring a child's healthy life.  However to ensure that children on a grand scale live through the first 28 days, a wide variety of innovations and education is necessary. 

Despite looming federal budget cuts, Gates remains optimistic. He left us with a final thought: Even though not everyone can give money or time, everyone can act as an advocate for those whose voices are not often heard.  Gates closes, "I encourage everyone to get involved in working for solutions to the challenges those people face. It will draw you in for life."