Polio is a disease that not too many people in the first world often worry about. In between bird flu scares and worrying whether vaccinations are good for you, no one really pays attention to Polio. Why would they? Polio is a dead disease, it’s like Latin. It just does not matter because it just does not happen, right?

Wrong. There is a misconception that Polio somehow was eradicated in the 1900s, as if we fought a war on disease and Polio was one of the causalities. Polio is very much real, and many Americans have probably come into contact with Polio in their lifetimes.

Polio is not dead, it is tamed. Vaccinations are what have laid this beast to rest. The Polio vaccine was discovered in the mid-1900s. Since then, the vaccine has been recommended universally (The History of Vaccines).

According to the Polio Eradication Initiative, there are three countries that still have epidemics. One of these countries are in proximity to West Africa and the Horn of Africa where Polio vaccines are not very common (Global Eradication Initiative) If nothing is done about the Polio epidemics in these three nations, it has the potential to spread further and become a global epidemic anywhere that Polio vaccinations are not sufficient.

Currently, the cost to immunize a child against Polio is anywhere from $1-$6 (Simeon Binette). Although that number is much larger when multiplied by the number of children in need of vaccination, it is still a relatively low cost to prevent a worldwide outbreak. Furthermore, it is a luxury most countries have. It is not the norm for a nation to not be able to afford Polio vaccinations, and if they cannot, it is not difficult for organizations such as the WHO or UNICEF to support.

That would be the simple analysis, however there is more to the cost of solving this problem. Many of the children that are not vaccinated in Afghanistan, are not vaccinated because of conflict (Global Eradication Initiative). It is either very difficult or impossible for health officials to get to certain areas of the country and provide these immunizations. The price that needs to be paid here is the end of a war that has been raging for a decade.

Pakistan is having difficulties managing their vaccinations because of a failing government that cannot properly provide a program to vaccinate children nationwide (Global Eradication Initiative). The price that must be paid here is a new government.

Finally, Nigeria. According to the Global Eradication initiative, social problems in the northern half of Nigeria pose a significant block in their efforts to vaccinate children. The price to be paid in Nigeria, is liberal social change.

Basically, even if the funds are there, we have to pay with peace, governmental accountability, and social change; among other things. However the real cost of Polio, is the child in Afghanistan, who will not be able to walk past his fifth birthday, because the adults wanted to fight a war.

– Zachary Patterson

Sources: Global Eradication Initiative: Infected Countries, The History of Vaccines: Polio, Bloomberg, Poliomyelitis