Polio Eradication: What are the final steps required to eradicate polio by 2018?

Richard Vis graduated from the MPH (online) at the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield in January 2016. Richard chose the programme as it has an excellent reputation with the medical profession with a national and international focus to the course. The distance learning route enabled him to continue in his job at Sanofi Pasteur MSD, a pharmaceutical company, alongside learning about the many different aspects of public health.

For his MPH dissertation project Richard chose to explore the eradication of polio because he was interested to see how achievable this goal is, and to explore how key initiatives, as well as vaccines, are being used to eradicate the disease. He found that many of the topics explored in his dissertation were covered in the MPH syllabus and became more relevant when conducting his research.

The title of Richard's dissertation project was 'Polio Eradication: What are the final steps required to eradicate polio by 2018?'


Introduction: In 1988 the World Assembly first set the goal of polio eradication for the year 2000. It was revised  to 2005, then again to 2012. The current date set for polio eradication and certification is by 2018 but wild polio virus still continues to circulate in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nigeria has been free from polio for just over a year now but remains at risk of re-infection. Unless effective measures are taken this latest deadline will also be missed and the momentum towards eradication will be cause further disability and cost lives.

Aim: This dissertation sought to identify and highlight what the current barriers are to the completion of the eradication of polio, and to outline what final steps are needed to finally eliminate polio from Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Nigeria, that only recently become polio free. 

Methods: A narrative literature review was undertaken that identified key interventions that have made significant impact on the reduction in the number of cases of polio and also identified recommendations of interventions required for each country to eradicate polio over the next three years. 

Results: Five main interventions were identified: political, diplomatic stakeholder solutions; improvements in polio surveillance; strengthening of polio immunisation programme delivery; improvement in the management of programmes; improvements in social engagement and community advocacy. Specific recommendations were made for each country which need to be implemented effectively and rapidly to maintain the progress and momentum towards eradication. 

Conclusion: Each of these three key countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan have specific challenges that are unique to them. Implementation of the standard polio eradication programme interventions more effectively should ensure that polio is finally eradicated from their countries, and globally.  When this is finally achieved it will be the second major infectious disease to be eradicated after smallpox due to vaccination. This should drive forward the elimination of the next vaccine preventable disease targeted by the WHO, namely measles, by 2020. 

Click on this link to read more about Richard's research.