Posted by Neelam Goel
One of Rotary‚Äôs key humanitarian goals is to eliminate polio from the face of the earth. Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus.  Poliomyelitis is a paralytic disease and is still active in 2 countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Thanks to Rotary International it is 99.9 % eradicated.  The virus usually affects 5 years old and younger, usually transmitted through the gastrointestinal tract, and in some cases can affect the spinal cord causing paralysis.  The first vaccine was invented by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1954, which was a  killed virus given intra-muscularly.  The second vaccine was invented by Dr. Albert Sabin, which is an attenuated virus (live) and given by mouth.  This vaccine was commercially used in 1961.   The iron lung was used to help polio patients with paralysis to breathe. 

When our club first started to observe World Polio Day in 2018, there were three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria with cases of Wild Paralytic Polio. Today only Pakistan and Afghanistan are the two countries left with active cases of Polio. Nigeria has been declared Polio Free (WPV) by WHO on August 25, 2020. In the last 10 years, Rotary International has spent $15 billion in Nigeria to eradicate Polio.  GPEI (Global Polio Eradication Initiative} was formed in 1988 for the worldwide eradication of polio. CDC, Rotary International, WHO, UNICEF, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are some of the major partners of this initiative. There were 350,000 cases of Paralytic Polio worldwide in 1985 that number was reduced by 99.9 percent in 2016.  For every dollar Rotary contributes to Polio, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives $2 making it a 2:1 match. However, our fight is not over until every country is declared polio-free and has the resources to effectively vaccinate its children. The United States is fortunate that polio is now only a distant memory when once it had infected our commander-in-chief, President Roosevelt who was able to successfully hide it.