On 24 October, we mark World Polio Awareness Day, a reminder that polio is a devastating disease which could easily return if we are not vigilant.
Every Australian needs to understand how important it is to prevent a re-emergence of this debilitating disease.
Thanks to decades of diligent vaccination programs against polio, there has been no case of wild poliovirus in Australia for more than 30 years.
Along with the Western Pacific Region, we were certified polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000.
Last year, the risk posed to national health security by wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived poliovirus was re-assessed. The risk for the next five years from wild and vaccine-derived polio, was found to be very low.
Our vaccination program is strong and on latest figures we have achieved 95 per cent coverage of 5-year-olds — the level considered to provide herd immunity.
Recent outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio virus in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines in our region, confirm the need for continued vigilance.
Vaccine-derived polio typically occurs in populations that have low immunisation rates, allowing the virus used in vaccine to pass from person to person and over time, regain its strength.
Australia is firmly committed to the eradication of polio and supports the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and other important partners to strengthen routine immunisation systems.
While Australia remains polio-free, around 400,000 Australians are believed to suffer from the effects of post-polio syndrome, the dark legacy which develops many years or decades after initial infection with polio.
Polio Awareness Month and events such as this one are an opportunity to improve understanding about this condition, which until recently was poorly understood.
The Morrison Government is committed to addressing the impact of post-polio syndrome and will continue to work with Polio Australia to help people affected. As well as the support we provide to people with chronic conditions in general.
In addition to this we have provided $450,000 to Polio Australia for clinical practice workshops to improve our health system’s response for these patients.
In June 2019, we committed $470,000 to continue this program for another three years to train clinicians to recognise and manage patients with the syndrome.
The Morrison Government is a long-standing supporter of polio eradication efforts. It is important that the successes to date are continued until we achieve a world free of polio.