World Polio Day: History, Theme and Major Milestones

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Feb 28, 2022, 10:17

World Polio Day is globally celebrated on 24th October every year. The day provides an opportunity to renew the commitment to polio eradication by spreading awareness about the disease. It was established by Rotary International to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, developer of the first successful vaccine against poliomyelitis.

On World Polio Day, WHO, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and Rotary International urge all parents to vaccinate their children against polio. The GPEI works towards eradicating polio worldwide and ending the suffering from this debilitating disease.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last two strongholds of polio today. Until the poliovirus is eradicated from these two countries, all nations remain at risk of virus transmission through importation.

India became polio-free in January 2014, after reporting zero cases for three years. The last wild poliovirus case was reported in Howrah in West Bengal on 13th January 2011.

World Polio Day Theme 2021

  • The theme for Polio Day 2021 was "Delivering on a Promise."
  • The world committed to eradicating polio in the forty-first World Health Assembly in 1988, 33 years ago. This led to the origin of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to fulfil the commitment.
  • Since then, a staggering 99.9% reduction in polio transmission cases has been achieved globally, with 5 out of 6 WHO regions certified polio-free.
  • In June 2021, the GPEI launched the revised strategy for polio eradication called the Polio Eradication Strategy 2022-2026.
  • The five-year strategy identifies remaining obstacles to eradicating polio in high-risk countries to devise a more strengthened plan. Many of the new tactics and approaches outlined in this plan have already been implemented.

World Polio Day - History




The first major polio outbreak occurred in Vermont, United States.


Swedish physician Ivar Wickman identified polio as a contagious disease.


Physicians Karl Landsteiner and Erwin Popper of Vienna discovered that a virus causes polio.


A major outbreak killed 2,000 people in New York and 6,000 across the United States.


An artificial respirator was invented for people suffering from paralytic polio.


Dr Jonas Salk developed a vaccine that was considered safe and effective.


The US government licensed the oral polio vaccine developed by Dr Albert Sabin.


Rotary International began its fight against polio. A multi-year project was launched to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines.


Rotary International launched PolioPlus, an internationally coordinated private-sector support of a public health initiative.


Rotary International and the WHO launched GPEI.


Polio was announced eliminated from the Americas.


China and India saw the immunization of 165 million children in a week.


A record 550 million children (almost 10% of the world's population) were administered oral polio vaccine.


The Rotary Foundation raised $119 million in a 12-month campaign.

Six countries remained polio-endemic:

· Afghanistan

· Egypt

· India

· Niger

· Nigeria

· Pakistan


Africa saw the largest coordinated polio immunization effort- 80 million children were targeted in 23 countries.


4 countries remain polio-endemic:

· Afghanistan

· India

· Nigeria

· Pakistan


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $355 million, along with a Rotary challenge grant of $200 million. With this, Rotary's overall contribution to polio eradication nears $800 million.


Celebrities and public figures join Rotary's awareness campaign called "This Close" to end polio.


India records zero cases for one year and is removed from the endemic list.


India is declared polio-free by WHO. Polio cases globally have gone down over 99% since 1988.


Nigeria records zero cases for three years.


The African region is declared polio-free by WHO.


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FAQs on World Polio Day

Q.1) When is World Polio Day observed?

Ans: World Polio Day is celebrated on 24th October every year.

Q.2) Who established World Polio Day?

Ans: Rotary International established World Polio Day to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, developer of the first successful vaccine against poliomyelitis.

Q.3) What was the theme of Polio Day 2021?

Ans: The theme for Polio Day 2021 was "Delivering on a Promise."