"We are this close.”

The Dansville Rotary members are demonstrating how close we are to eradicating polio.

Most of you have probably only heard of polio. But some of us know friends who had polio and were left with the debilitating after effects.

When the Salk vaccine was approved in the 1950s mass vaccination events were held in each town which was a welcome relief to parents. Summertime was peak polio season and a time of dread for parents as children were most vulnerable to the disease. In the most severe cases the muscles that control breathing were paralyzed and the child had to placed in an “iron lung”… a very old form of a ventilator.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) website states that polio is still endemic (maintained naturally) in three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Thirteen countries are considered at key risk and fourteen countries have had outbreaks. Until poliovirus transmission is interrupted in these countries, all countries remain at risk of importation of polio, especially vulnerable countries with weak public health and immunization services and travel or trade links with endemic countries. The most recent outbreak occurred in the Philippines in September 2019.

There are three strains of wild poliovirus which fortunately cannot replicate outside the body however the virus can live outside the body for many days. The virus is shed by an infected person and can be transmitted to another person via the oral route, i.e. touching contaminated hands to mouth. Once in the body of the unvaccinated person, replication begins.

The polio virus now survives only among the world’s poorest communities and countries … places that are in the midst of internal and political strife which makes vaccination of children even more difficult.

For more than 30 years, Rotary and our partners have driven the effort to eradicate polio worldwide. The Rotary PolioPlus program was the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication by vaccinating children on a massive scale. As a core partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary focuses on advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and awareness-building.

Rotary has committed to raising $50 million per year for polio eradication. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, for a total commitment of $150 million each year. These funds provide much-needed operational support, medical workers, laboratory equipment, and educational materials. Governments, corporations and private donors all play a crucial role in funding.

Please consider making a donation at www.endpolio.org

Instead of saying, “We’re this close”, we want to say “We did it, polio is eradicated.”

Amy Pollard is the President/CEO of Noyes Health in Dansville