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Rotary Happenings: Polio Day celebrates Salk, Rotary’s work to end historic disease

By Staff | Nov 5, 2014

Quite a morning at Rotary on Friday, Oct. 24. We not only had a speaker but it was also Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s World Polio Day and we had scheduled a live SKYPE broadcast from Bangalore, India, where we were to witness several young children receiving polio immunization drops administered by our Rotary District No. 6960 Leadership-Polio Chair Ross Russo.

Luckily the technology worked and Ross was able to help us experience with him one of these amazing events that were being held all over the world on October 24 — World Polio Day celebrating the 100th anniversary of Dr. Jonas Salk’s birth.

Many of us can remember back to the 1950s, when as young children ourselves we stood in line to receive the Salk polio vaccine shots.

“In 1952, here in the U.S., polio was epidemic – 58,000 cases were reported, with 3,145 deaths and 21,269 instances of permanent, disabling paralysis. Globally, polio paralyzed or killed up to half a million people every year” — Rotarian magazine.

Dr. Albert Sabin then went on to develop an oral version of the polio vaccine, a more effective way of distributing the vaccine. This allowed large numbers of children to be immunized quickly, safely, and inexpensively. Of course, children here in the United States and other developed countries were receiving the polio vaccine but outbreaks still were occurring around the globe.

In 1985, Rotary International began its PolioPlus program — the goal to immunize every child around the globe under age five against this crippling disease until the world is polio-free.

Fast forward through the years since, Rotary International has partnered with World Health Organization, CDC, and UNICEF to form the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. We are almost thereonly three countries are still reporting polio outbreaks today Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan and these are the most difficult countries to get into. Global Polio Eradication Initiative states: “All countries remain at risk of importation of polio, especially in the ‘poliovirus importation belt’ of countries from west Africa to the Horn of Africa.”

India was thought to have been one of the hardest countries to administer the distribution of polio vaccine but a recent declaration of the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that India is a polio-free country, punctuates over three decades of tireless efforts.

With the incredible work of Rotary International, Rotarians around the globe, the generosity of its members, and the generosity of supporters of Rotary’s goal to eradicate polio throughout the world — the goal is to achieve full eradication by 2018. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continues to support this goal by matching 2 to 1 every dollar that is raised through Rotary toward achieving this goal.

After the SKYPE transmission from India, Sanibel-Captiva Rotary presented a $5,500 check for Rotary International EndPolioNow to our Rotary District No. 6960 Assistant Governor Area 4 John McGowan. This contribution will then be matched by the Gates Foundation, with a total contribution of $16,500. This $16,500 covers the expense of 165,000 immunization drops.

Incredibleincrediblethere is absolutely nothing else to say, except to quote Rotary International President Gary C.K. Huang: “When we eradicate polio and we will we’ll have brought the world into a better future and Rotary into a better future as well. We will have proved ourselves, as an organization, capable of great things. And we will have given our children and grandchildren a gift that will endure forever: a polio-free world.”

Because there is just so much column space each week, I will be writing about this week’s guest speaker, Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson, next week.