The world’s campaign to eradicate polio is almost over in terms of two countries and just a handful of cases occuring there. But the fight is not over; the toughest battles in the hardest to reach locations remain, and even after no new cases of polio appear, vaccinations will need to happen for many years to come.
In honor of World Polio Day on October 24, Vashon Island Rotary holds an annual educational program at Chautauqua Elementary school, teaching fourth and fifth grade students about polio and adding a fun way for them to participate in global eradication efforts. Each student who donates $1 gets their pinkie finger painted purple, just like the process in developing countries when teams of health workers visit villages to vaccinate everyone
Since 1985, Rotary has contributed nearly $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. The disease remains endemic in just two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan — although other countries remain at risk for imported cases. Last year, India was declared polio free with no new reported cases for three years, and in August of this year, there were no reported cases of polio in the entire African continent for one year.
The message from Rotary to world leaders is clear: support the final push to achieve eradication now while the goal has never been closer, or face the potential consequences of a new polio pandemic that could disable millions of children within a decade.
One dollar pays for vaccine to immunize three children. As the PolioPlus campaign says, “We are this close!”