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The moral dilemma of the polio eradication programme

T Jacob John , Dhanya Dharmapalan

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2019.060


During the last five years, globally, cases of polio caused by vaccine viruses have outnumbered those of polio caused by natural (wild) polioviruses, posing a moral dilemma. Public health ethics should ensure the best interests of the community, with equity in sharing benefits and risks irrespective of socioeconomic disparities. Vaccine viruses in oral polio vaccine (OPV) cause vaccine-associated paralytic polio (VAPP), while paralytic polio is also caused by vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPVs). By its policy of the use of OPV in low and middle-income countries, while rich countries use the safe inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), the Global Polio Eradication Programme has been responsible for social injustice. In 2017 and 2018, there were outbreaks of polio in Syria and Papua New Guinea due to circulating VDPVs, after many years of these countries remaining free of polio due to wild polioviruses. The only ethical way forward for global polio eradication is to replace OPV with IPV in all countries.

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