Introduction to Charlie’s Blog on Polio Eradication

Welcome to my blog about PolioPlus. PolioPlus is the name of the effort of Rotary International in its mission to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. The effort was started in 1985 in the Philippines by immunizing all the children in the Philippines.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (“GPEI”) was formed in 1988 after the World Health Organization (“WHO”) saw the efforts and success of Rotary International toward immunizing the children of the world.  WHO brought together the U.N.’s UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control in Atlanta (“CDC”) to join with Rotary in this global effort.  Now GPEI, through its 4 partners, is leading the fight to eradicate polio worldwide.  Its website, www.polioeradication.org,  each week publishes up-to-date information on the background, development and results of this effort. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has joined the effort as well as massive financial support from some of the world’s governments has helped the eradication effort.

I can hear a lot of you thinking out loud, “Polio, that is no longer a problem, I never hear about it anymore!!” If you were around in the 1940’s through 1970’s you remember polio epidemics, friends being stricken, and lining up for the Sabin vaccine coated sugar cubes. In the 1980’s and 1990’s in the United States there were still some major vaccination efforts. On August 20, 1994, the Americas were certified polio free. Hooray, polio all gone!!! Not quite…….

I was at the bank and sat chatting with the customer service representative. He could not be more than 25 years old. We got on the subject of Rotary, of which I am a member. I told him how wonderful I thought Rotary was and of course proud of the effort to eradicate polio worldwide. He smiled and nodded. I realized it was one of those smiles to be nice but he was either bored or too shy to admit he did not understand something I said. So I asked if he knew what polio is. His face brightened and said that it was some type of crippling disease from years ago but was gone. I corrected him and explained how it still is a problem in 3 countries considered endemic (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria). I explained how those countries had to be made polio free or the entire effort since 1985 was for naught and there was a chance of returning to 300,000 cases a year compared to the current under 300 cases a year.

Later that evening, a young relative came over to my home for dinner. He is 22. He was just hired by a high tech company that only hires the cream of the crop. I knew he would understand my upset with the other young man’s ignorance. I told him what transpired. He proudly told me that everyone should know polio was a horrible crippling disease but it had been eradicated. Again, that day I was upset at the lack of knowledge about polio.

I admit it, I am a big fan of the television program Glee. I think the story line is sort of funny but the actors are among some of the most talented singers and dancers I remember seeing. If you do not know the storyline, it is about the adventures of a glee club in a high school. One of the story lines had the principal demanding that the students get vaccinated against such diseases as polio (trust me, it may not sound it, but the show is light hearted and a comedy). One of the teachers tried to get the principal to back down from the demand by saying, “Come on, polio was just about eradicated in the 1950’s.” Luckily he was an actor reading a script and not a real life teacher telling students that polio has been eradicated.

A friend saw a post I have on my Facebook page about a seminar on polio. He sent me an email asking why the polio seminar. He thought only the anti vaxxers (parents refusing to vaccinate their children) were the problem these days. I explained about the 3 countries again. He asked to chat some more about it. He is in his 40’s.

Bottom line, the reason for this blog is to educate as many people as this blog can reach. I will post my thoughts sprinkled with data from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative which is made up of the 5 organizations mentioned in the beginning of this piece. I will also describe the vaccination efforts continuing to be implemented by members of Rotary worldwide. I hope to post at least once every 2 weeks and eventually once a week. Do me and the world a favor, become a regular reader of this blog and tell as many friends as you can to follow the writing here.

Charlie
PolioPlus Assistant Chair
Rotary District 5170

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2 thoughts on “Introduction to Charlie’s Blog on Polio Eradication

  1. Flo Stafford says:

    I hear the expression, Polio is only an airplane ride away. I think its worth putting in your blog at some point. You say that polio can return again but people may think that since it is only in three countries that they will not be going to, that they are safe. Go into how polio can make a come-back if we don’t completely rid the earth of it, every country, every child.

    • Flo……Thank you for the comment. You are correct the important message is “polio is only an airplane ride away.” While there are 3 countries described as endemic, meaning they are the genetic sources for the polio viruses being fought, Somalia just had a jump in the last few months of 160 cases. My guess is this is a result of the political unrest which causes people to do whatever to survive. My next few blogs will discuss just that, looking at the current numbers of
      cases in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, the 3 endemic countries and the sporadic cases that show up in other parts of Africa…….Charlie

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