A few days ago Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper ran an article profiling Bill Gates. He discussed how he has more than enough money to meet his needs so his focus in life has shifted to helping underprivileged kids. Gates’ particular interest is eradicating polio. “We’re focused on the help of the poorest in the world, which really drives you into vaccination. You can actually take a disease and get rid of it altogether, like we are doing with polio.”1
Gates’ pursuits certainly sound noble and India and Gates boast that India has had no new cases of polio since January of 2011. Sounds like a terrific achievement. But is there more here than meets the eye? While Gates’ and India tout that India has had no new cases of polio since early 2011, what they neglect to mention is that there were 47,500 cases of something called non-polio acute flacid paralysis (non-polio AFP) that looks an awful lot like polio, acts pretty much the same, and is twice as deadly. To quote the authors of a recent paper,
…while India has been polio-free for a year, there has been a huge increase in non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP). In 2011, there were an extra 47,500 new cases of NPAFP. Clinically indistinguishable from polio paralysis but twice as deadly, the incidence of NPAFP was directly proportional to doses of oral polio received.2
The authors go on to report that after further investigation of India’s data on polio, it has been confirmed that India’s rate of non-polio AFP is 12 times what it should be absent the vaccination program and in the states that were the primary focus of the polio eradication campaign, the rate of non-polio AFP is 25 and 35 fold of what it should be. The increase in incidence of this more deadly type of polio is directly proportional to the oral polio vaccine administered.3
Why has this happened? There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, the vaccine that has been administered to India’s millions is the oral polio vaccine, a live virus vaccine. This same vaccine was discontinued in the US in 2000 because it was the remaining sole cause of polio in the US.4 Because the vaccine contains a live virus and the virus is shed in the feces of vaccinees for several weeks after receiving the vaccine, the vaccine itself can cause polio. The other reason is that nature is smart. So smart in fact that viruses can mutate and outwit vaccines. Essentially, the vaccine caused nature to respond and nature did so by mutating polio into a more virulent strain against which the vaccine does not protect.5
So while Gates boasts about the success of his polio eradication programs, the actual experience of thousands has been more illness, more paralysis, and more death.