Boorowa Rotary to raise awareness this World Polio Day

A polio vaccination being adminsitered.
A polio vaccination being adminsitered.

Boorowa Rotarians are hoping to help get one step closer to the eradication of polio with a fundraiser on Saturday, October 24.

World Polio Day is always acknowledged around the birthdate of Jonas Salk on October 28.

Salk was the American virologist and medical researcher who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines.

Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that still threatens children in parts of the world today, and World Polio Day is about increasing awareness of the work done to eradicate this insidiously devastating disease.

Together the World Health Organisation (WHO), Rotary International and Rotarians throughout the world are fighting - and winning - this battle.

Locally, Boorowa Rotary is taking action on World Polio Day to raise awareness, funds, and support to end polio.

To do this, there will be information and donation buckets placed at the Boorowa Community Op Shop and at the Boorowa Community Markets this Saturday.

When Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries every year.

Great progress has been made against the disease since then.

This year, the WHO's African region was certified free of wild poliovirus.

This has highlighted that eradication is possible - even in the current very difficult circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, wild poliovirus still paralyses children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and as long as polio exists anywhere, it remains a threat everywhere.

Today, polio cases have been reduced by 99.9 percent, and of the two countries that continue to report cases of wild poliovirus, in July Pakistan announced the restart of their polio vaccination campaigns, after their COVID numbers dropped.

In Septembe rthis year, Somalia conducted an integrated measles and polio campaign in the Banadir region - the first immunisation campaign held there since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Somalia.

Over the previous seven months, Somalian health workers had been fully engaged in fighting the pandemic.

Now, this recent 'Stop Polio Campaign', conducted whilst observing safety measures to prevent spread of COVID-19, has been a chance to get back on track to protect children who have missed out on vital immunisations.

These immunisation programs are not possible without donations and support of Rotarians around the world, including Boorowa Rotarians.

Internationally, Rotary has contributed more than $2.1 billion to ending polio since 1985 and is committed to raising (US) $50 million each year to support global polio eradication efforts.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, making a total yearly contribution of $150 million.

With polio nearly eradicated, Rotary and its partners must sustain this progress and continue to reach every child with the polio vaccine.

Without full funding and political commitment, this paralysing disease could return to polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.

"If this fight is successful, polio will be the second ever human disease to be eradicated from the world", Boorowa Rotary President, Elizabeth Myburgh said, "and polio vaccine provides the best protection against this dreadful disease".

Two recent challenges to global eradication of polio are a conspiracy theory circulating on social media claiming that the polio vaccine contained coronavirus, and threats from President Donald Trump of the United States to cut funding for the World Health Organisation.

"As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world," Mrs Myburgh said.