Vaccine refusal and the endgame: walking the last mile first

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013 Jun 24;368(1623):20120148. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0148. Print 2013 Aug 5.


As multiple papers within this special issue illustrate, the dynamics of disease eradication are different from disease control. When it comes to disease eradication, 'the last mile is longest'. For social and ecological reasons such as vaccine refusal, further ending incidence of a disease when it has reached low levels is frequently complex. Issues of non-compliance within a target population often influence the outcome of disease eradication efforts. Past eradication efforts confronted such obstacles towards the tail end of the campaign, when disease incidence was lowest. This article provides a comparison of non-compliance within polio, measles and smallpox campaigns, demonstrating the tendency of vaccine refusal to rise as disease incidence falls. In order to overcome one of the most intractable challenges to eradication, future disease eradication efforts must prioritize vaccine refusal from the start, i.e. 'walk the last mile first'.

Keywords: disease eradication; measles; polio; vaccine refusal.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disease Eradication / methods*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mass Vaccination / methods*
  • Measles / epidemiology*
  • Measles / history
  • Poliomyelitis / epidemiology*
  • Poliomyelitis / history
  • Smallpox / epidemiology*
  • Smallpox / history
  • Treatment Refusal*