Eradicating Polio

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1952 was the year of polio hysteria. In the United States alone, 58,000 people came down with the disease. But even then, trials were paving the way toward immunization campaign that eventually wiped out polio in the U.S. and in many countries around the world. But polio continued to paralyze children in many developing countries. So the World Health Organization set itself a goal to eradicate the disease by the year 2000.

The WHO is close, but it’s not there yet. Last year, there were only a few hundred cases worldwide, but some are warning these numbers are set to grow. A wave of anti Americanism is threatening the global campaign to eradicate polio, and inflaming the debate over whether such immunizations should be forced.


Atul Gawande, a surgeon and research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health

John Donnelly, Boston globe staff writer