Agreement signed to eradicate polio worldwide

10:44, June 13, 2011      

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Linda Venczel (Front, Left), senior program officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Yang Xiaoming, general manager of China National Biotech Group sign the cooperation agreement in Beijing on June 10, 2011. (Lou Linwei/ Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the China National Biotech Group signed a cooperation agreement on a polio eradication project in Beijing on June 10, 2011.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and chairman of Microsoft, said that the agreement is a milestone in the field of global health. The foundation is committed to improving the health conditions of all the people in the world, particularly the poor countries where infectious diseases are still a significant problem, he said. The partnership with China National Biotech Group for a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis has been proven to be a huge success.

The current campaign against polio dates back to 1988, when nearly 300,000 children were paralyzed each year. Thanks to vaccinations, the number has dropped to 3,000. Gates said eradicating polio among the final 1 percent is proving to be very difficult. The foundation is now doing many more rounds of vaccinations to constantly improve coverage. "We discussed [vaccine development and production] with [China National Biotech Group], and it turned out they did a very innovative piece of work to supply polio vaccines for China," Gates said.

More importantly, China National Biotech Group increased the capacity of the new oral polio vaccine production quite significantly. "The polio eradication campaign is a thing I actually spent more time on than my other activities," Gates said. He said he hoped the success here in the next two to four years could energize the entire global health circle so that polio would join smallpox as the second human disease to be completely eradicated. "The agreement today, with strong expertise of China National Biotech Group, is a joint help to the polio campaign, a milestone," Gates said.

So far, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured millions of U.S. dollars into the research and development and supply of polio vaccine, and it has committed to providing polio vaccines with high quality and at a low price.

Founded in 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation carries out charity projects in more 100 countries. Since the establishment of the Beijing Representative Office in 2007, it has supported a range of health and development programs in China, including the advocacy of a smoke-free environment, as well as AIDS and TB prevention and control.

By Zhang Xinyi, People's Daily Online
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