Nigeria came close to stamping out polio before. But then in 2003, governors and religious leaders in the north spoke out against and banned the vaccine. There were widespread fears it would cause HIV, infertility in girls, that polio was a Western conspiracy. In just a few short years, the virus took off once again in Nigeria and was believed to be transmitted as far away as Indonesia, Yemen, and Sudan.
The ultimate goal has never been containment, and now Nigeria is once again on the verge of eradication, in part because the campaign is putting communities first.
Religious and government leaders were brought into the fold and important criticism of the program was revealed. Previously, healthcare workers offered the polio vaccine for free while other basic healthcare needs were ignored. So now the teams deployed to the field do more, from routine immunizations to antenatal care.
Every country is different, but Desmond-Hellmann says Nigeria is becoming a blueprint.