We are within spitting distance of wiping polio off the face of the planet for all time. This is the last stage of one of the grand medical crusades of the 20th Century, which in 1988 was given focus, credibility and an apparently workable schedule by the World Health Organisation and its partners. Back then, the WHO was flushed by its success in having eradicated the much greater scourge of smallpox, a feat accomplished in just 11 years. Polio had already been pushed out of two-thirds of the world’s countries by vaccination; polio seemed an easier target and a deadline of the year 2000 entirely reasonable.
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