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Is Bill Gates wrong about polio?

Bill Gates and his huge foundation are under fire these days for his unrelenting focus on eradicating polio.

Critics are urging him to pull back from the zero-case goal. Eradication is impossible, they say, and is pulling dollars away from other life-threatening diseases. Gates should accept reality and invest in controlling the disease, not wiping it out.

Well-meaning though they might be, these critics miss the point. Gates is right to set an audacious goal and take it to the finish line. In doing so, he has decided to convert what many see as an intractable problem into one that is solvable.

This is the core challenge facing anyone engaged in changing the prevailing wisdom that rules the world. It is the same obsession that drives all social breakthroughs. As I write in my new book, Driving Social Change, success is not about settling for half a loaf or even 90 percent of a loaf, but altering the basic notion that the world can only be so much better.

The prevailing wisdom always fights change--after all, that is how it remains the prevailing wisdom. It criticizes new ideas, plants seeds of doubt and argues that problems such as poverty and disease are an inevitable byproduct of progress. Even when great breakthroughs occur in moments of national concern, the prevailing wisdom is always ready for a return to power when complacency sets in.

The prevailing wisdom about global health is surely right that polio is almost impossible to eradicate. Polio is a pernicious disease, especially in less developed countries where vaccinations involve multiple doses over relatively long periods at $2 to $3 per contact.

Moreover, Gates' polio campaign may indeed be diverting needed funding from other priorities. As the editor of the Lancet, a highly respected medical journal, recently tweeted, Gates' "obsession with policy is distorting priorities" even in other areas that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has targeted. "Global health does not depend on polio eradication."

Gates has made the case that eradicating polio will save the world billions, and is also no doubt right. But his case would be stronger if he focused on the broader purpose of his effort.

Even if we fail, he could say, we should aim for a fundamental and permanent shift toward cure, not comfort; eradication, not control. Yes, we should invest in the most effective treatments for polio, which has a habit of popping up in unexpected places such as the Minnesota Amish community. Yes, we should acknowledge the enduring frustration in achieving eradication.

But these familiar realities have not stopped other efforts to change the status quo. Great social movements demand great ambition. Imagine if the civil rights movement had promised just half as much discrimination, the environmental movement just half as much toxic waste, the hospice movement just half as many painful deaths, the food movement just half as many hungry children, or the Egyptians just half as much the oppression.

By accepting nothing less than absolute eradication, social movements not only inspire their forces to persevere against the odds, they challenge the notion that some problems are just too hard to solve. Are they naïve? Are they arrogant? Are they immune to doubt? Perhaps so. But their drive for change is not only admirable, even heroic, but essential for reminding the world that it doesn't have to accept the status quo as the only alternative.

Thinking big is ultimately about creating a very different vision of the future and holding to it when the status quo demands compliance. Instead of saying "Yes, we can" when others say "Yes, we might" or "No, we can't," Gates is saying "Yes, we will"--and actually means it. He understands that change does not begin with compromise, but with a grand expectation of impact.

If Gates had said "Yes, we might" when he launched Microsoft, he wouldn't have the money now to change the world. Nor would he have the confidence to fight for a healthier world. He simply refuses to believe that polio is an intractable problem. His critics should adopt the same stance, whether in attacking disease or creating a more just, tolerant, enlightened and equitable world.

By Paul Light

 |  February 4, 2011; 11:30 AM ET |  Category:  Foreign Affairs , Innovation , Nonprofit leadership , Technology Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Bill Gates and the Rotary Foundation with donations from many individual Rotary Clubs in the USA are trying to eliminate Polio in the world. Since the world is much more mobile that it was 30 to 40 years ago, polio can be easily transmitted by somebody traveling to India and being exposed and bringing it back to the USA. I myself as a Rotarian proudly donate to the Rotary Foundation to help support the fight against Polio and other important health issues in 3rd world nations that could have an effect on the US. Remember that the Gates Foundation made a pledge that if Rotary could match the dollar amount, this money would be used for fighting Polio. Rotary members contributed far in excess of what was needed for the match showing that private donations can do far more than government taking our tax dollars and trying to spent it at a less efficent manner.

Posted by: sales7 | February 11, 2011 12:13 PM

Bill Gates made his money via a loop whole in IBM contract and not because he is a great brain. One can say that a fool and his money is soon parted. Gates knows little or nothing about the field of medicine.

Posted by: artg | February 11, 2011 12:05 PM

Bill Gates has every right to spend his money on trying to eradicate polio. There are other worthy health issues that need funding, but it's his money and his foundation. In addition, unlike the Global Fund, there aren't allegations of corruption and wasted money associated with his foundation. There are huge amounts of money spent on the fight against AIDS, and there are other worthy causes - like the eradication of polio.

Posted by: mmreay | February 11, 2011 10:22 AM

TheJames1225 wrote: "Well America has spent billions on the War on Poverty since the sixties and we still have about the same percent if not more. Talk about wasting money."

Your assumption being that, had that money not been spent, poverty figures would have not become WORSE still?

A lot of "smartypants" around here tonight...
_______________

Your assumption is because we spent billions and have a bunch of redundant and ineffective programs that just make the government much bigger for tax payers that this is actually helping.

Yes A lot of "smartypants" around here tonight...

Posted by: thejames1225 | February 11, 2011 9:40 AM

Why is an editor from Lancet trying to spend the Gates' money?

Posted by: shhhhh | February 11, 2011 9:34 AM

Medicine can be thought of as man's awkward attempt to alter the "natural selection" process which has served our species so well for tens of thousands of years. Nature has provided a great mechanism by which we develop into even healthier beings, however, contemporary medicine has become an albatross that mitigates our progress in this regard. We are born, we live and we die; all of us should hope to do these 3 things in a dignified way. There is no getting around the grief of death, however, propagating the genetically disadvantaged only lessens our long term survivability. That is what Darwin's research was about.

Posted by: 4blazek | February 11, 2011 9:06 AM

In many aspects of life, we are encouraged to aim high. We tell our children they can be anything they want to be. Mike McCarthy didn't tell Aaron Rodgers this year to just shoot for making the playoffs. So it's sad to hear people like Drs. Horton and Caplan suggesting, basically, that Gates not aim so high. Besides, it's his and his wife's money, and they can do as they please with it. They can voice their opinions, but in the end it's the Gateses' call.

Posted by: bucinka8 | February 11, 2011 9:00 AM

The world now has nearly 7 billion people, which is already considerably beyond its long term capacity to sustain such human habitation, particularly as developing nations seek to attain the levels of consumption of the USA and other developed nations. Regardless of the worthy motivation of philanthropy to eliminate disease, the inexorable forces of nature will make this century one of increasing turmoil.

Posted by: dcoll28416 | February 11, 2011 8:46 AM

The problem is you have a young middle aged population of people who have no clue about anything but their self and their daily wants and have no agenda but for their own selfish gains. Because they have no clue about polio then they have no reason to adopt any type of conversation except a "no" conversation on any subject that they do not understand have any knowledge about or care too.
It does not enter their world and will not unless of course they or someone close to them invades their smug world.

Posted by: mac7 | February 11, 2011 8:37 AM

Instead of criticizing his betters, this hack at the Lancet should be on a world-wide apology tour over his journal's tabloid-style publication of that nonsense about measles vaccine and autism.

Posted by: corco02az | February 11, 2011 8:22 AM

Well, here goes another WaPo fruitcake ranting about something that's not his business.

Let Mr. Gates do what he wants with his resources! Who are you to tell him what to do or say what he's doing is wrong??

I agree with the "Party of 'No' " when it comes to accepting just anything the government tries to cram down our throats without thought to the consequences, but, as others have commented, DON'T say "NO" to eradicating ANY disease. Who back in the dark ages would would have thought anybody would survive the black plague? Mr. Gates is to ber commended for his great work.
Without people like him (and, yes, the Rotarians!), we'd probably ALL be suffering from some grave illness.

LUFRANK1 wrote:
"...the exponential growth of the human population (7,000,000,000,000 AND still exploding...

Try to explain that to the Vatican and to the GOP anti-family planning and other scientifically IGNORANT groups!"

You call THEM "ignorant"?? 7 trillion people, eh? Go back to school!

Posted by: flipper49 | February 11, 2011 8:06 AM

Why do we even listen to the "we can't" people? We eradicated smallpox. Mao eradicated flies in China. We can do anything.
And then why do we give voice to those who want to tell us that Mr. Gates vision is wrong, and theirs is better? Mr. Gates has proven his ability to concieve and execute on ideas that no one including fiction writers would ever consider, with side benefits beyond any of our calculation.
But of course, the Lilliputians want tyo tell us something different.

Posted by: kesac | February 11, 2011 7:43 AM

Bill Gates is a Rotarian. The goals of Rotary International is to eradicate Polio, overwhelming poverty and encourage world peace. The USA and Canada have been polio free for nearly 4 decades. All of Europe is polio free. Cases of polio on the South American, Africa and Indio- continents are rare and far between. It has lead Rotary to look at why. The why is sanitation and sources for clean and potable water.

This has lead to Rotary International and Rotary club Worldwide to work toward make sure that villages where polio outbreaks are most prevalent to have proper sanitation and clean, drinkable water, as well as education programs to help the people maintain clean living conditions.

Another goal of Rotary is education, and in particular girls. Why girls. Studies have shown that by educating girls, that the lives of the community improve. Because Females use their learning to improve life within their community. It is less about making money and more about improving the quality of life. It is a win win for everyone.

Posted by: Tuathe | February 11, 2011 7:38 AM

As a 61 year old polio survivor with post-polio syndrome, I salute Mr. Gates. Race for the goal and don't stop at the 50 yard line.

Posted by: luckytn | February 11, 2011 7:34 AM

Just want to remind Mr. Gates that the regular polio vaccine we use in the United States is a live vaccine.
In very rare occasions,(and I've personally treated such a case), infants who are vaccinated with the live vaccine, even without becoming infected in a pathological way, can transmit polio to another infant with a rare immunodeficiency, i.e., remind your scientist doing the numerical calculation to factor in the rare infection of immunodeficient children.

If your scientist has already factored in this aspect in this calculation, then never mind.
Currently, immunodeficient patients get a different form of the vaccine that is not live. So if he has not factored it in, a small adjustment can be made.
Best of luck either way.

I do hope that Gates gets it right, one way or another, and that polio will be somehow eradicated.

And I hope there are more Gates-like philanthropists in the pipeline.

Please don't criticize him too much! He's gathered much of the required funds already! What more do you want from leadership?

Posted by: Joallen8 | February 11, 2011 5:13 AM

The major threat to our existence isn't any particular disease or diseases lumped into a group or general category ("cancer", for example). It's human over-population and the environmental catastrophes arising from it, biospheric degradation just one. Our numbers, combined with our advanced technologies magnify our economic activities. These are wrecking the very web of life that we depend upon for our survival, the biological basis of our existence.

Pathogenic disease, as horrible as it is on a personal and social level, is Nature's way of restoring balance to the ecosystem and biosphere. We fight it at our peril because our population grows at an unsustainable geometric rate.

We fight pathogens with weapons created through the scientific method, an advanced technology beyond the comprehension of all the other species on our planet (and our own for 99.9% of its existence). We invented these tools because pathogens cause great suffering and misery and exact a terrible personal toll. Yet pathogenic predation is Nature's way of limiting the population size of species that become too successful and too powerful, because success + power = invasiveness.

The simple fact is we are too invasive. Over the Christmas/New Years weekend (regrettably) the Public Library of Science ("PLOS") released for accelerated peer review a study of the Devonian extinction event. Crudely summarized (all I can manage here) the proximate cause of this "Late-Devonian Extinction" event were invasions by foreign species that displaced established native ones, causing massive die-offs in both groups.

The PLOS article can be found at:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0015584

a more reader-friendly version, published in "ScienceDaily", can be found here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101230100050.htm

The science suggests that Mr. Gates' efforts, however well-intentioned as they might be, are misplaced. Our numbers, given our invasiveness, will be our undoing. If Gates' wishes to use his vast wealth and social power to improve the human condition (individual health and the general lot of mankind) especially in the so-called "Third" or "Developing" World, he should fund projects that limit our invasiveness, projects that preserve our increasingly fragile, blighted and deteriorating biosphere. He should refocus his strategy because the invasive species causing today's mass extinction is "Homo Sapiens" (Latin for "wise man", or "knowing man"), and we cannot long escape the consequences of it, nor of our folly; our invasive depredations; our mindless destructiveness. Our numbers, combined with our greed and often willful blindness, will create conditions that cause our own destruction. Given that reality, Mr. Gates' campaign amounts to a mis-allocation of desperately needed resources that can only accelerate that same destructive process.

Posted by: hogsmile | February 11, 2011 2:06 AM

Bill Gates earned the money and the right to do with it what he wants. His goals are admirable and he needs no direction from this quarter.

Posted by: LETFREEDOMRING2 | February 11, 2011 1:05 AM

"They have the means and they care. In the meantime, they set an example. And ultimately, they can do whatever the hell they want with their money, can't they.

Do I sense some envy?"

Posted by: DeepClue | February 10, 2011 10:54 PM

No. I have no control over YOUR perceptions.
I only made a few observations. I didn't say they shouldn't spend their money. Their examples seem to fit a common mold. I question the ultimate effectiveness of such altruistic 'caring'.

Posted by: glenmayne | February 11, 2011 12:20 AM

I agree that it's his money and he can spend it however he wants. I admire him and his wife with all my heart for their generosity and altruism. (Although I do sincerely wish he would spend some $$ on finding cheaper/better birth control. Ridding the world of polio is a great goal but helping stabilize the population before we kill off Mother Earth thru overpopulation would actually be more beneficial in the long run to greater numbers of people...)

Posted by: chistera | February 10, 2011 11:03 PM

TheJames1225 wrote: "Well America has spent billions on the War on Poverty since the sixties and we still have about the same percent if not more. Talk about wasting money."

Your assumption being that, had that money not been spent, poverty figures would have not become WORSE still?

A lot of "smartypants" around here tonight...

Posted by: DeepClue | February 10, 2011 10:58 PM

Glenmayne wrote: "Why do smug do-gooders with a lot of money always champion a "good cause"? [...] Bono pals around with presidents to end world hunger, George Clooney plays statesman in the Dafur, Sean Penn emulates rescuing missionaries in the huge disaster of Haiti (where is he anyway?), Angelina wants to be the woman in the shoe with all of her public international adoptions, her husband builds edifices of gratefulness in the decimated ninth ward of New Orleans, etc. What are their qualifications for these magnanimous endeavors?

---

They have the means and they care. In the meantime, they set an example. And ultimately, they can do whatever the hell they want with their money, can't they.

Do I sense some envy?

Posted by: DeepClue | February 10, 2011 10:54 PM

Why do smug do-gooders with a lot of money always champion a "good cause"? They always make public speeches in grandiose locations talking about how important their 'work' is.
They become self taught experts in their chosen infliction of mankind. They seem to confuse public exposure with competence and expertise. Bono pals around with presidents to end world hunger, George Clooney plays statesman in the Dafur, Sean Penn emulates rescuing missionaries in the huge disaster of Haiti (where is he anyway?), Angelina wants to be the woman in the shoe with all of her public international adoptions, her husband builds edifices of gratefulness in the decimated ninth ward of New Orleans, etc.
What are their qualifications for these magnanimous endeavors?

Posted by: glenmayne | February 10, 2011 10:33 PM

Only those who lived through the terrible times of polio and had loved ones struck by the disease, can possibly realize how horrible that time was. Some who are still handicapped and crippled demonstrate how important it is to eradicate. There should be no question but to eradicate this dreadful disease. When people are far away in other countries, it is hard to imagine. Refresh your memories, you older Americans. A vaccine is a little speck in comparison to sending iron lungs around the world.

Posted by: webster2 | February 10, 2011 10:20 PM

How much money are his critics dishing out to cure those "life threatening diseases? $0. How do you have the nerve to tell someone what the h ell to do with their money.

Posted by: kendra2 | February 10, 2011 9:58 PM

If Gates is doing it, it must be wrong.

Posted by: mcstowy | February 10, 2011 9:45 PM

re lufrank1

Really - 7 trillion people? Are these the pro-abortion numbers you've been fed?

To quote you

"The MOST pressing and Fatal disease for human civilization is the exponential growth of the human population (7,000,000,000,000 AND still exploding - - - earth livable space and resources are finite - LIMITED, many non-renewable!"

My wife and I are very happy with our ten children and Catholic faith despite your bigotry and hate for religious people. If you prefer not to procreate that would be better for all of us. There is enough hate in this world without more closed minded, intolerant people like you.

Posted by: oldschool10 | February 10, 2011 9:25 PM

re lufrank1

Really - 7 trillion people? Are these the pro-abortion numbers you've been fed?

To quote you

"The MOST pressing and Fatal disease for human civilization is the exponential growth of the human population (7,000,000,000,000 AND still exploding - - - earth livable space and resources are finite - LIMITED, many non-renewable!"

My wife and I are very happy with our ten children and Catholic faith despite your bigotry and hate for religious people. If you prefer not to procreate that would be better for all of us. There is enough hate in this world without more closed minded, intolerant people like you.

Posted by: oldschool10 | February 10, 2011 9:25 PM

It's hard to get into a piece that starts off with a question that creates bias. Poor choice there, Mr. Light.

Posted by: DCPeterDC | February 10, 2011 9:10 PM

Bill Gates should have stuck to computers. He married the wrong woman and is now wasting money on her hobbies. Very sad.

Posted by: ridagana | February 10, 2011 8:58 PM

Cancer, Heart Disease, Polio?

The MOST pressing and Fatal disease for human civilization is the exponential growth of the human population (7,000,000,000,000 AND still exploding - - - earth livable space and resources are finite - LIMITED, many non-renewable!

Problem? Try to explain that to the Vatican and to the GOP anti-family planning and other scientifically IGNORANT groups!

Posted by: lufrank1 | February 10, 2011 8:35 PM

Wishing a not full of tourist paradise place for vacations? go to http://greencolombia.amawebs.com/

Posted by: albeiroespinoza | February 10, 2011 8:23 PM

Well America has spent billions on the War on Poverty since the sixties and we still have about the same percent if not more. Talk about wasting money.

Posted by: thejames1225 | February 10, 2011 7:30 PM

I believe that Bill Gates earned his money and has the right spend it as he sees fit. Secondly, my grandfather had polio and it impacted his whole life. He was able to walk with braces and a cane, he forced his body to hit and chase a golf ball, but his biggest dream, to dance at my wedding never happened due to this disease.

If you don't like Mr Gates' plan, don't take his money.

Posted by: skramsv | February 10, 2011 6:36 PM

I think the real issue here is that people in the world health policy business are worried that Mr. Gates will set the bar much higher for them and they will all have to work harder. They must resent that.

Posted by: AnotherContrarian | February 10, 2011 6:34 PM

A fundamental point evidently needs to be made to a few of those who are posting on this thread. Eliminating disease --- though it might perhaps seem paradoxical to many people of a "First-World" mindset --- actually operates to REDUCE "Third World" world population, not increase it. For then people GENERAALLY ELECT TO NOT HAVE AS MANY CHILDREN IN THE FIRST PLACE! --- as they simply DO NOT NEED to have as many in order to increase their chances of providing them care in their old age!

Posted by: BirdsAbound | February 10, 2011 5:48 PM

Idle minds are the workshop of the devil. The more money, the bigger the workshop. Also, adled minds are the wasteshops of economists.

Posted by: demcapu | February 10, 2011 5:42 PM

Everyone's wrong. Wrong focus. Too many people in the world. Gates et al. should spend their $billions to reduce the billions of people smothering the world, not enabling more occupiers of the planet.

Diseases will be more manageable, and eradicable, when fewer of us around to get sick.

PRIORITIZE!

Posted by: LeonK1 | February 10, 2011 5:02 PM

I say it's HIS money. He earned it. He gets to choose how it's spent. The people who are whispering these things in his ear need to take a long hike.

Posted by: forgetthis | February 10, 2011 2:26 PM

Unless you know someone who suffers from the after-effects of Polio, you don't have a good sense of why this is important.

How much money do poor countries spend on Smallpox vaccines? Zero; because it has been eliminated. Someday polio & river blindness will both be eliminated. Then money that would have gone to controlling those diseases will go to other pressing problems. But it takes total eradication to make that happen.

Posted by: cyberfool | February 10, 2011 11:34 AM

LeeH1 wrote:
Or the world would be better off if we just quarantined these [Muslim] countries until the are polio-free. At the present, their citizens are a danger to the rest of the less hate-filled world.
~~~~~~~
Oh, I'm sorry; what was that you said? I couldn't really hear it above all the ironically ignorant, hate-filled rhetoric you posted.

Sorry Nagatuki, you're acting childish.

LeeH1 is totally right. And funnier hahaaahahaaaa

Posted by: princeps2 | February 10, 2011 10:24 AM

re "reminding the world that it doesn't have to accept the status quo as the only alternative"

on another disease - people say about alcoholism that the current treatments/steps are the only alternative. The Foundation for Alcoholism Research does not agree and wants to find new ways of tackling this disease. www.alcoholismresearch.org and on facebook

Posted by: pegwc1 | February 10, 2011 9:44 AM

LeeH1 wrote:
Or the world would be better off if we just quarantined these [Muslim] countries until the are polio-free. At the present, their citizens are a danger to the rest of the less hate-filled world.
~~~~~~~

Oh, I'm sorry; what was that you said? I couldn't really hear it above all the ironically ignorant, hate-filled rhetoric you posted.

Posted by: nagatuki | February 10, 2011 9:30 AM

The critics have no idea about Polio. It is a life changing disease for poor folk and it CAN be eradicated, and that means never to have it appear again. Perhaps the critics have not heard of what was done to eradicate smallpox. Something similar is being done about Guinea worm.

Posted by: Observer20 | February 9, 2011 6:36 PM

Drug company's don't want to cure diseases. They all have shareholders to account to and creating a cure is not as profitable as making drugs that will help with the symptoms of the disease. Also, drug companies pay governments lots of money to keep their agenda.

Posted by: qballgeek | February 8, 2011 11:10 PM

Beyond all the other stuff. Forget all the leadeship discussion.

It's Bill's Money and if he wants to spend it all on Polio eradication, that's his right.

And how spending his money on Polio affects the efforts on other health fronts and other diseases, is a wonder. Unless all his critics believe they have a say in how and where he should spend his money.

I am not always pleased hwo Bill and Warren now, spend their money, but it's their money and I and anyone else do not have any basis for reprimanding them.

Posted by: OldGeezer | February 8, 2011 3:46 PM

The places where polio is still endemic are all Moslem or they have large Moslem minorities. They don't see it as "the polio vaccine," but as the "Salk vaccine", and it is thus suspicious since Dr. Salk was Jewish. Their prejudices and anti-Semetic hostilities are killing themselves.

I think Gates would get a better response from them if he offered a cash reward or bounty for each dead person with polio instead of offering life.

Or the world would be better off if we just quarantined these countries until the are polio-free. At the present, their citizens are a danger to the rest of the less hate-filled world.

Posted by: LeeH1 | February 8, 2011 11:29 AM

What you are missing here is the Opportunity Costs of his goal. Would wiping out polio be a noble achievement? Of course! But at what cost?

The cost of the program is not measured in dollars and hours, but what is not being achieved with that money. If we eliminated 90% of polio cases, but the extra 10% cost extraordinary amounts of money, would it not be better to pursue more achievable world health goals?

Chasing unachievable goals sounds romantic, but the opportunity cost is what you could have done with the money and labor in the meantime. Instead of eliminating 100% of one disease but leaving other problems untackled, wouldn't it be best to get rid of 80% of several problems?

Posted by: AxelDC | February 8, 2011 7:29 AM

First of all, Bill Gates was not the first to try to eliminate polio. The first group to really go after the elimination of polio was Rotary International. Gates joined the effort and contributed massive amounts of money to help with the effort.
Second, the elimination of polio is not only possible, but within sight. There are only a few places left in the world where new cases are found and those are being actively targeted.
I am glad that the attitude that it can not be stopped was not applied to yellow fever for example.
Bill Gates foundation gives millions to help cure other diseases as well. It is ridiculous and stupid to say that he is focused in the wrong direction.

Posted by: tenshi1 | February 7, 2011 10:33 AM

I love this article. I will certainly be looking for the book to buy also.
Bill Gates is right in going after the whole "loaf". Eradication and cure is the objective that all healthcare policies should have as objective. Management of a disease only profits pharmaceuticals who rake in large profits every year as they sell their expensive "management" drugs to desparately sick people. A cure means no more exploitation of the sick for the rest of their lives!!! Congress should be in line with Bill Gates, but unfortunately, AHIP and the rest of the health and pharmaceutical industry's lobby prevent this from happening. Bill Gates and his foundation is the only hope of the people. Bravo Bill and Melinda! God Bless you.

Posted by: genevieve2000 | February 7, 2011 10:26 AM

Polio and the lack of fresh water, would be cured when the sanitation problem (where does the human waste go) is solved. It's not glamorous, and until then Bill is just flushing his money.

Posted by: jimward21 | February 7, 2011 10:09 AM

Your criticism ignores the mission of the Gates Foundation. Gate's purpose is to target those issues where there is an effective solution, but where the market will not take up the challenge because there is little or no profit. Vaccines can be extremely effective and relatively inexpensive for the result; as a consequence, ironically, the pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to invest in expensive R&D and the extensive logistics required for distribution and outreach. The biggest pharmaceutical profits are drugs that require extensive and long term dosage for health issues that, for the most part, afflict first world countries where more patients are able to afford them. The Gates Foundation fills those holes...it is not intended to go after the health issues that private industries, or governments would be targeting anyway. Investment in basic research, innovative trials, and low profit projects are the niche where private charity is the most effective, and with the amount of money available to the Foundation, they have already made tremendous strides in health projects such as polio vaccination, malaria prevention and vaccine research, and research in and modification of HIV medication distribution, among other things. If not the Gates Foundation, then who?

Posted by: ado211 | February 7, 2011 2:42 AM

The Gates Foundation, funded primarily by the generosity of Bill and Melinda Gates, gives grants to a wide variety of programs, including education, community development, and many health related programs. If they choose to add polio to their list, or even make polio a priority, as so many above have noted - it is their money.

My mother was diagnosed with polio right after Pearl Harbor; much of the war years for me were living with my grandmother because my mother was in the hospital, seeing my mother in a wheelchair, then on crutches, and then a cane. She was lucky, she made an almost full recovery, only sustaining severe atrophy of the muscles in one leg. Many of the women in the hospital with her went home in wheelchairs, if they went home. I remember summers in Chicago when public swimming schools, movie theaters, even libraries were closed because of fear of polio. When the Salk vaccine was first distributed in our area, I was one of the first in line with my then 2 year old son, because I knew what polio could do. I had the opportunity to have all of my children vaccinated against polio.

God bless Melinda and Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation for all they do, including or perhaps especially for their desire to try to eradicate polio.

Posted by: vklip | February 6, 2011 9:50 PM

Great social movements require great ambition. I love it! I will be eagerly waiting for the end of this dread disease and then for the end of Malaria.

Posted by: kecanoe | February 6, 2011 8:00 PM

While the virus that causes polio may be impossible to eradicate, the disease it causes can be effectively eliminated by universal vaccination, just as it has been in the developed world. The barriers are mostly logistical, coming up with the money to pay off corrupt leaders and other criminals, educating willfully ignorant people, providing the infrastructure to distribute vaccine in the most primitive and backward locales. We are always our own worst enemies.

Posted by: DaveHarris | February 6, 2011 11:56 AM

To Bill and Melinda Gates: Please continue what you're doing AND steer some money (if the Foundation is not already) to those who've been stricken by polio and now face the symptoms of post-polio syndrome. They can help you eradicate polio in ways the you and Foundation cannot -- because they've 'been there' and are 'still there.' Just say the word on your web site and watch them come come to you.

Posted by: jimpierobon | February 6, 2011 10:33 AM

I don't know all the details as I haven't studied the issue recently, however the vaccine most likely to be accepted is the oral vaccine. Eradication of polio is impossible with the oral vaccine because it is a live virus which will infect a certain percentage of persons vaccinated. The polio shot is a dead vaccine which is not nearly as effective as the live vaccine, which is administered by sugar cube. You have a much greater chance of reducing polio incidence to the lowest possible amount by employing the live vaccine, since it is easier to administer and much more socially acceptable, particularly to uneducated and impoverished individuals, however some people will be infected by the vaccine, although very few. So the goal of eradication of the disease may not be the best way to achieve the lo0west possible incidence of polio in the world.

Posted by: dwcriswell | February 6, 2011 12:38 AM

FOLLOWED DISEASE SINCE BEING AT CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL 1951 & World Health Organization. Eradication Is NOT Only Curing People, Also Large NetWork of Religious Groups, Anti Vacinationalist, Whom disseminate Disease, Robustly, are eradicated.

That Is Center of Disease Control & Prevention. Eradication of Diseminators of that Disease, in Broad Spectrum.

Polio is Disease that is Form of Soft Flesh Eating NecroVirus that Normally does not Penetrate bone Nor move much from site of Origin.
DiseaseOnce Eradicated, much of Effort then moves elseWhere, Like TB & Lung Machines, Gone are Miserable day when Common illness that lead to Rapid Death & Might Say, Patient being Entertainment of Pain for sanitarium Workers, often taking years to become discharged for lucky, Knew.

Signed:PHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.

Posted by: ThomasStewart1 | February 5, 2011 9:04 PM

Its Bill Gate's money. He should use it the way he wants. It is true that if he is right, it would not be the first time. Neither would it be the first time for him to be wrong. But the reality of private enterprise is that it is his choice.

Posted by: dnjake | February 5, 2011 3:07 PM

Its his money- he can spend it however he wants to.

Posted by: butforthegraceofgod | February 5, 2011 11:13 AM

I love our waves of amber grain and corn is fine, too.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | February 5, 2011 11:05 AM

I vote for letting the philanthropist do what he wants.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 5, 2011 9:43 AM

I am a Rotarian. Rotary International started the war against polio many years ago. We are very proud to say we had the goal of polio eradication long before Bill Gates joined us. The goal is hard to reach- many factors affect the completion of the target goal. But to persevere against overwhelming odds is the hallmark of being an American, and a Rotarian. Rotarians worldwide give their time, money and directly participate in immunizing millions of children in one single day! We laud Bill Gates for using his wealth in such an endeavor:)

Posted by: geejay2 | February 5, 2011 7:27 AM

It's his money he can do what he wants with it. Eradicating polio which was a terrible scourge and could be again thanks to wrong minded people who don't want their children immunized. It amazes me that small minded people can never see any goal as worthwhile unless it's their goal.

Posted by: LadyChurchill | February 5, 2011 5:06 AM

If you've ever known someone with polio you're probably over 50.

It's been "maintained" and "controlled" in the United States so well I don't remember anybody having it since my buddy Charles Ferguson died form it (he had asthma too which just made the damage that much worse ~ and there were no drugs for asthma back then).

Even Cholera is "maintained" and "controlled" on a world scale ~ and the world is prepared to move in to treat victims in outbreaks at the drop of a hat.

Then, there's Celiac ~ some folks are sensitive to 3 lipids found in wheat, barley and rye ~ and in children eating cream of wheat can lead to a very early miserable death ~ in adults it leads to intestinal cancers of all kinds ~ equally miserable deaths.

So, let's lean back and look at these diseases statistically ~ and simply depersonalize all of it.

So, I'm doing that, and it's all good. Charles is still dead. Millions of others today aren't because his death, and that of others, helped set in motion a change of events that brought massive relief.

Then, there's Cholera. Ain't no thang. I am among a small group with inherited resistance to that and several other deadly diseases. It holds no fear for me but I do feel your pain!

And finally, Celiac ~ we finally know what causes it. Getting labeling in place to warn us that poisonous wheat gluten is present is a workaround. The cure is, of course, to apply GM technology to the wheat/barley/rye genomes and get the bad stuff out at the start.

We do regularly re sequence wheat ~ to kill off the latest type of rust that threatens to starve the world to death. Certainly we could target the offending lipids ~ giving relief to the other 3.54% of the population.

Gates could do worse than to spend his money on curing wheat of its ability to kill people with Celiac. He could do worse than to improve our ability to control Cholera. He could even do worse than to eradicate polio.

My childhood friends death haunts me yet. I think Bill is on the right track with this one.

Posted by: muawiyah | February 4, 2011 9:01 PM

Since I see no discussion of alternative sources to fund other research I must assume that the people doing the criticizing themselves assume that if Mr. Gates donated less toward eradicating polio he would donate that money to research some other disease. Not necessarily so. Perhaps he has some personal reason to want to eradicate polio - perhaps a relative or friend who died from the disease. At that time he could do nothing. Now he can. If I decide to give less to charity A it does not mean I will give more to charity B. This is not always a zero sum game.

Posted by: Ex-Fed | February 4, 2011 8:02 PM

Assuming that Gates' efforts are using the OPV, the recipients and those in close contact with them need to be informed about the vaccine and consent to its use.

We no longer use OPV in the USA.

Posted by: schafer-family | February 4, 2011 6:42 PM

The arrogance of those who would criticize someone so generous as to donate so significantly is beyond understanding! Just because it is not your choice of charity or disease, you criticize him for giving too much? Why don't you guys come up with your own money to help those diseases you care so much about, rather than try to dictate Bill Gates on how to spend his donations! If you or your loved ones has a family member with polio, would you still be hurling Bill Gates the same criticism? Those who are criticizing Bill Gates for his incredible gesture and contribution in this matter should go look in the mirror and check yourselves and your values, and acknowledge your incredible arrogance, and STOP trying to exploit Bill Gates' generosity to draw attention to yourself and your choice of charity and disease, that's totally selfish and self-serving, the complete opposite of what Bill Gates is doing. Shame on you guys!

Posted by: imjohnjohn | February 4, 2011 4:09 PM

Eradication is impossible as long as you have a anti-vaccine movement and all of the government conspiracy theorists. Polio should have and was almost eradicated decades ago. Now much needed funding in areas such as antimicrobial resistance, TB, Malaria and antiviral research and assistance is being pulled to fight something that could have and should have been eradicated a generation ago. Maybe Gates just wants to hang his hat on an easy win (or get close to it) - the others are much greater threats.

Posted by: mariaestavez | February 4, 2011 3:39 PM

i am 64 now and lived through the 50's with my cousin larrys polio he was lucky for some reason he beat it. now mr gates is really trying to iradicate. all my life whenever i thought of "reaching for the top rung", if i only made it to the second, say the vice presidency of the USA i would have felt ok with myself. go for broke and accept almost. michael shimansky bridgeport,ct/guanacaste,CR

Posted by: coolgolf | February 4, 2011 3:22 PM

If our species is most endangered by environmental issues such as climate-change and ecosystem-collapses; and if the single, most effective means of addressing this is through freezing our own reproductive explosion, then why doesn't someone dare to be unpopular enough to make this an honest public discussion? Will it be super ugly and messy? Will it make defeating terrorism seem trivial? Will it challenge our notions of civil liberties? Yes, Yes, Yes... Will it hurt more the longer we wait? Yes. I wish Mr. Gates would pay a few people to suicide their political campaigns in order to open this debate. It's gonna take a decade to get it legitimaized as a mainstream household topic.

Bill Gates? Give him a statue. Thank him for his tireless and altruistic efforts to balance his ego in the public limelight.

Posted by: hazarabs | February 4, 2011 2:51 PM

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