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In 1985, members of Rotary began a worldwide project with the aim of eradicating polio from the planet. If successful, this will be only the second disease that has been eradicated throughout the world. The first being smallpox.
From small acorns… In the thirty years the scheme has been operating, polio is now only endemic in two countries, those being Pakistan and Afghanistan. All the other countries in the entire world have been recognised as polio free. This year there have only been 16 reported cases so far this year.
However the last time polio affected a child in Europe was last summer. In 2015, two Ukrainian children were diagnosed with paralytic polio and given the way the disease manifests itself that means that many more were likely infected and didn’t show symptoms.
The reality is that no place is safe until the disease is eradicated everywhere.
Ukraine had fully vaccinated only 50% of its children against polio and low immunization rates are a recipe for an outbreak (think of the low immunization against measles in Swansea and the resulting outbreak not too long ago).
It is therefore essential that we remain vigilant until the battle is won. Another $1.5 billion is required to complete the task. The biggest expense is not the vaccination campaign but the distribution of the vaccine, the transportation and the staffing that costs so much.
The costs will continue after the last case of polio is indentified as vaccinations will continue and need to be funded in order to maintain high levels of what is called ‘herd immunity’.
We can all do our bit. I went out to India in February to help administer the vaccine to their children, Grantham Sunrise has purchased 20,000 purple crocus bulbs, with the dual aim of enhancing the local environment and also making the public aware of the End Polio campaign.
The three Rotary clubs in Grantham will also be holding a street collection so that the generous people in Grantham can help eradicate this awful disease from our world.
WE are nearly there. With more money ‘eradication’ will be possible by in the near future.