Tuesday 24 October 2017 is World Polio Day. With much debate regarding vaccines, and a small but vocal group lobbying against this form of health protection, the Rotary Club of Claremont urges everyone to celebrate World Polio Day by recognising the great success that one vaccine has had towards eliminating an incurable but preventable disease.

Wild poliovirus is an infectious disease that occurs mainly in children, targeting the nervous system and causing paralysis. In the 1980s, 1000 cases of polio were reported globally every day. This figure has been reduced by 99.9 percent to just 37 reported cases of polio last year.*

Liz Rose, President of the Rotary Club of Claremont and a former Community Nurse, commented on the success of the vaccination campaign to stop polio.

“The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership between Rotary, the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and governments around the world. Together, through global collaboration, much has already been achieved to eradicate this disease,” says Rose.

The Rotary Club of Claremont has donated a total of R350 000 to Rotary International’s Polio Plus Project, which aims to totally eliminate polio, over the past six years. This year the Club is donating R100 000 towards the Project.

The virus has been eradicated globally except in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan where transmission of the virus has not been successfully stopped yet. “Geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict and cultural barriers are all factors that make it difficult to prevent transmission of the disease, and until polio is totally eradicated, all countries remain at risk of outbreaks,” says Rose. South Africa has been polio-free for over 20 years, due to immunisation against polio as part of the normal vaccination schedule, as well as periodic specific campaigns in which booster doses are given to children. Healthcare workers are vigilant in detecting any signs of paralysis in children.

“The end is in sight, but we are not there yet,” says Tom Bergmann-Harris, Past President of the Rotary Club of Claremont and former UNICEF representative who has worked closely on many polio eradication campaigns over the years. “Smallpox has been eradicated through huge effort and now it only exists in laboratories. Polio is very close to becoming a success story, like smallpox, but much is still required to totally eliminate the disease. We must not slow down now, we must see it through to the end,” says Bergmann-Harris.

“We must ensure that not a single child is left unvaccinated. Polio is incurable but completely vaccine-preventable. While we celebrate World Polio Day and the success of the vaccine, we are equally aware that the fight is not yet over,” concludes Rose.

[Photo credit: Rotary International. High resolution image available on request]

For more information on Rotary Club of Claremont and the various community projects and initiatives they are involved with, please visit https://www.facebook.com/RotaryClubofClaremont/.

* Rotary and Polio document, link available at https://my.rotary.org/en/take-action/end-polio