Worldwide status of poliomyelitis in 1986, 1987 and 1988, and plans for its global eradication by the year 2000

World Health Stat Q. 1990;43(2):80-90.


In 1986, a total of 28,951 cases of poliomyelitis were reported to WHO by 175 countries/areas. For 1987, 35,685 cases were reported by 168 countries/areas. Reporting is incomplete for 1988, based on data available as of December 1989. Trends in regional incidence rates for poliomyelitis over a 15-year period from 1974 to 1988 suggest a decline in the incidence of the disease, especially since 1982. However, the reported data underreport actual disease incidence. During 1986, 1987 and 1988, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) estimates that 200,000-250,000 cases of paralytic poliomyelitis occurred each year. With the current level of polio immunization coverage, it is estimated that 360,000 cases of paralytic poliomyelitis were prevented in 1988. In 1974, when the EPI was started, it was estimated that less than 5% of children in the developing world were adequately immunized against six common childhood diseases, including poliomyelitis. In 1988 (based on data available as of December 1989) 67% of children worldwide received a full course of polio vaccine before 12 months of age. The progress of the EPI has provided optimism that poliomyelitis can be eradicated. In May 1988, the Forty-first World Health Assembly committed WHO to the global eradication of poliomyelitis by the year 2000. The eradication of poliomyelitis will represent, along with the eradication of smallpox, a fitting gift from the XXth to the XXIst century. To reach this goal, action will be required in several main areas. Immunization coverage will need to be raised and sustained in every district. Vaccine quality must be assured by using vaccines which meet WHO requirements and maintaining the cold chain. Surveillance must be strengthened so that prompt, regular reporting of suspected cases leads to disease-containment measures. Additional actions include improving laboratory diagnostic capabilities, developing special training materials, increasing public awareness, supporting rehabilitation services and conducting essential research.

MeSH terms

  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Immunization Schedule
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Poliomyelitis / epidemiology*
  • Poliomyelitis / prevention & control
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral / administration & dosage
  • Population Surveillance
  • World Health Organization


  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral