Some lessons for malaria from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative

Malar J. 2021 May 1;20(1):210. doi: 10.1186/s12936-021-03690-6.


The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988 with the aim of completely clearing wild polio viruses by 2000. More than three decades later, the goal has not been achieved, although spectacular advances have been made, with wild polio virus reported in only 2 countries in 2019. In spite of such progress, novel challenges have been added to the equation, most importantly outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio cases resulting from reversion to neurovirulence of attenuated vaccine virus, and insufficient coverage of vaccination. In the context of the latest discussions on malaria eradication, the GPEI experience provides more than a few lessons to the malaria field when considering a coordinated eradication campaign. The WHO Strategic Advisory Committee on Malaria Eradication (SAGme) stated in 2020 that in the context of more than 200 million malaria cases reported, eradication was far from reach in the near future and, therefore, efforts should remain focused on getting back on track to achieve the objectives set by the Global Technical Strategy against Malaria (2016-2030). Acknowledging the deep differences between both diseases and the stages they are in their path towards eradication, this paper draws from the history of GPEI and highlights relevant insights into what it takes to eradicate a pathogen in fields as varied as priority setting, global governance, strategy, community engagement, surveillance systems, and research. Above all, it shows the critical need for openness to change and adaptation as the biological, social and political contexts vary throughout the time an eradication campaign is ongoing.

Keywords: Eradication; Global health; Malaria; Polio.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Eradication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / statistics & numerical data
  • Malaria / prevention & control*
  • Poliomyelitis / prevention & control*