Thursday, October 21, 2021

World-wide warriors

Local Rotary clubs celebrate global effort to eradicate polio

Rotary members from across the globe have spent
decades in the battle to inoculate the children
of the world against polio.
They don't look like warriors, but for more than 40 years, they have been doing battle with an enemy that has threatened the lives and well-being of children around the world.

Members of local Rotary clubs throughout this area and across the United States have been on a mission since 1979 to eradicate polio, a disease responsible for the crippling paralysis or death of thousands of children in this country and even more victims across the globe. 

In 1952-an epidemic year for polio-there were 58,000 new cases reported in the United States, and more than 3,000 Americans died from the disease.  On March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes polio.

During the early 1950s, children afflicted with muscle-wasting
polio were often placed in iron lungs to keep them breathing.
Salk donated the vaccine and took no payment for the life-saving serum that was immediately embraced with great relief by parents across the country. Children were inoculated at schools, churches and clinics and and within only a year, the instance of polio forcing children into leg and back braces, or iron lungs, was eradicated in America. Few people in this country can even remember the fear parents had of their children contracting the crippling disease and today, most people have only a vague recollection of hearing about it.

Many countries, however, did not have the financial ability to produce or distribute the vaccine, prompting the members of a Rotary District in the Philippines to begin the movement to eradicate the disease. That goal was adopted as the PolioPlus campaign in 1985 by Rotary International leaders and has been a mission of the organization for more than three decades. As part of the program, massive vaccination efforts were undertaken in endemic areas. In one day in Brazil, 17.5 million children received the vaccine provided and distributed by Rotary members. Despite the barriers of religious objections, primitive physical locations, war, famine and the sensitivity of the vaccine, polio has been wiped from the globe in every country but Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the Taliban forbids the  door-to-door vaccination campaigns. 

Rotary leaders have vowed to continue the fight against polio but are well aware that the inoculation of Afghan and Pakistan children will require an even stronger financial commitment. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged a 2-1 matching grant to the effort, increasing $33 earned serving pancakes or running a marathon to $100 for the vaccination effort.

Rotarians around the globe continue to raise money toward the effort, personally pledging to contribute $100 each year toward PolioPlus. 

Rotarians organize bake sales, golf outings and in Plymouth, the famous Chicken Barbeque, among many other local events, to help fund the goal of eradicating polio. Rotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion to polio eradication since the PolioPlus program began and the club is committed to generating $50 million each year for polio eradication efforts including vaccinations and necessary booster shots. 

This week, on Oct. 24, Rotary Club members around the world will celebrate World Polio Day, marking their successful effort to eradicate the disease and pledging to continue their efforts. 

Donation information is available online at