India’s polio eradication campaign
One of the main focus areas of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is polio eradication through vaccination. As the single largest , The Gates Foundation, the largest contributor to the World Health Organization (WHO), earmarks most of its contributions for vaccination activities; over 26% of the WHO’s budget has been earmarked for polio eradication1.
Although polio has been promoted as a fearsome disease, paralyzing millions, 99% of those infected do not exhibit paralysis, to the point of making surveillance difficult. India instituted a comprehensive surveillance program to detect instances of acute flacid paralysis ( AFP), and thereby catch instances of polio. Stool samples were used to differentiate AFP from NPAFP (non-polio acute flacid paralysis) which is a more severe and fatal form of paralysis than AFP paralysis from polio.
The polio eradication campaign began in India in 2000. A pulse polio program was instituted, consisting of a series of OPV (live virus) vaccinations given to children under age 5, multiple times a year. By the end of the program children had received up to 50 cumulative doses. It was assumed that once polio was eliminated the numbers of AFP cases would go down to an accepted normal range. When the last case of polio was reported in 2011, there were 47,500 cases of NPAFP that year, well over the expected amount.
In 2012, since wild polio had been eliminated, the country began decreasing the number of pulse polio rounds, and with that came a decrease in the number of NPAFP cases. The intensive campaign to eliminate polio was found to have harmed more children than it helped – from 2000 to 2017, 491,704 children were paralyzed as a result of the numerous OPV shots2[/ref].
The National Polio Surveillance Programme maintained that the increased numbers were due to reporting of mild weakness, presumably weakness of little consequence. However in 2005, a fifth of the cases of non-polio AFP in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) were followed up after 60 days. 35.2% were found to have residual paralysis and 8.5% had died, making the total of residual paralysis or death 43.7%. The sharp increase in the national NPAFP rate in 2005, coincided with the introduction of a high-potency monovalent vaccine that contained 5 times the number of Type 1 viruses, compared to the number in the previously used vaccine. Children who were identified with non-polio AFP were found to be at more than twice the risk of dying than those with wild polio infection3. Had the high incidence of NPAFP been investigated during the surveillance period, many children could have been saved.
The aftermath of the campaign
Experts in India were troubled by the polio eradication campaign. In the end, they said, it wasn’t worth the cost:
… while the anti-polio campaign in India was mostly self-financed it started with a token donation of two million dollars from abroad. “The Indian government finally had to fund this hugely expensive programme, which cost the country 100 times more than the value of the initial grant.”“This is a startling reminder of how initial funding and grants from abroad distort local priorities … “From India’s perspective the exercise has been an extremely costly both in terms of human suffering and in monetary terms. It is tempting to speculate what could have been achieved if the $2.5 billion spent on attempting to eradicate polio, were spent on water and sanitation and routine immunization.”… “the polio eradication programme epitomizes nearly everything that is wrong with donor funded ‘disease specific’ vertical projects at the cost of investments in community-oriented primary health care (horizontal programmes).”
Polio eradication and the savings it would bring, they said, is a charade still being perpetrated, as Bill Gates and the Director General of the WHO were actively promoting polio eradication for other countries. Because the virus had been synthesized, the scientific community knew in 2002, that polio eradication would never happen. Furthermore, the WHO will stop providing OPV three years after polio is eradicated. IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) is very expensive and many countries will not be able to afford them. As a result, there will be no herd immunity and a great likelihood of polio returning either from residual samples of the virus stored in labs, the vaccine-strain, or by poliovirus manufactured in the lab with malicious intent.
… the huge costs of repeated rounds of OPV in terms of money and NPAFP shows that monthly administration of OPV must cease. “Our resources are perhaps better spent on controlling poliomyelitis to a locally acceptable level rather than trying to eradicate the disease.”In the final analysis, if the right lessons have been learnt and the world does not repeat these mistakes, the costs may yet be justified4.
In early February 2017, the Gates Foundation was removed from India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), the country’s top immunization advisory body that decides on which vaccines that should become part of the government’s immunization program. For many years the BMGF funded the Immunization Technical Support Unit (ITSU) which served as the secretariat of NTAGI. Ties were cut midst concerns about conflict of interest issues in the Gates-NTAGI relationship, because of the Gates Foundation “ties” with pharmaceutical companies and the influence that might have on India’s vaccination strategies5′6.
The WHO has admitted that any polio today is predominantly vaccine strain. The most frightening epidemics in Congo, Afghanistan, and the Philippines, are all linked to vaccines7.
Other countries with vaccine-strain outbreaks include Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. In 2017, the Gates and other organizations pledged $1.2 Billion to eradicate polio in those countries.[ref]Gates, Others Pledge $1.2 Billion to Eradicate Polio, Philanthropy News Digest, June 13, 2017, https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/gates-others-pledge-1.2-billion-to-eradicate-polio
- Experts call WHO & Bill Gates Foundation’s role in India’s polio eradication campaign unethical, http://pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=68352&sid=1
- Oral Polio Drops Linked to Paralysis in India, https://www.scidev.net/asia-pacific/disease/news/oral-polio-drops-linked-to-paralysis-in-india.html
|↑1||World Health Organization, Budget and Financing, program budget, http://open.who.int/2018-19/budget-and-financing/details|
|↑2||[ref]Diman, Rachana, et. al, Correlation between Non-Polio Acute Flaccid Paralysis Rates with Pulse Polio Frequency in India, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, August 15, 2018, https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/8/1755/htm#B12-ijerph-15-01755|
|↑3||VAshisht, Neetu and Pulive, Jacob, Let Us Declare Victory and Move On, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 9, 22 (2012), http://ijme.in/articles/polio-programme-let-us-declare-victory-and-move-on/?galley=html#twentyfive|
|↑5||Vishnoi, Anubhuti, Centre shuts health mission gate on Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Economic Times/Politics, February 9, 2017, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/centre-shuts-gate-on-bill-melinda-gates-foundation/articleshow/57028697.cms|
|↑6||BS Web Team, Modi govt cuts ties with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on immunisation, Business Standard, February 8, 2017, https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/modi-govt-cuts-ties-with-bill-and-melinda-gates-foundation-on-immunisation-117020800294_1.html|
|↑7||Beaubien, Jason, Mutant Strains Of Polio Vaccine Now Cause More Paralysis Than Wild Polio, NPR, June 28, 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/06/28/534403083/mutant-strains-of-polio-vaccine-now-cause-more-paralysis-than-wild-polio|