In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rotary and the world got some very good viral news. In August, the WHO declared Africa the sixth continent to be free of the wild polio viruses. It is an old virus having been around for at least two millennia. It has taken an extraordinary effort and a combination of public health officials, Rotary, and public and private sponsors to get this far.
While most of Asia, the last remaining inflicted continent, has been polio-free for a few years, wild polio is still endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
To ensure that polio does not remerge, vaccinations of young children must continue everywhere. However, during the earlier days of COVID-19, door-to-door vaccination was paused to safeguard against inadvertently spreading the virus. But by May, the countless polio community workers in emerging countries were helping communicate COVID awareness and safety practices, helping with contract tracing and community surveillance.
And in recent weeks they have combined that work with a restart of polio vaccination efforts.
On Oct. 24, the world will mark the annual World Polio Day. With only two of 195 countries endemic, we have much to celebrate – we are closer than ever to eradicate polio, but there is more work to be done.
As we have seen with the COVID-19 virus, as long as the virus has somewhere to hide, it is only a plane or boat ride away.
Rotary and the Gates Foundation committed earlier this year to raise another $450 million (USD) over the next three years to continue the fight, with The Gates Foundation matching Rotary contributions on a 2:1 basis.
If you would like to help rid the world of the scourge of polio, please contact any one of the Valley’s five Rotary clubs.