Rotary fighting polio around the world | Guest Column

Enumclaw Rotary will mark a 30-year commitment toward the vision of a polio-free world this month. On Oct. 24, at 6:30 p.m., a delayed viewing of the fifth annual World Polio Day event will be held at the Chalet Theatre.

  • Thursday, October 19, 2017 9:55am
  • Opinion

Nancy Merrill is a part of the Enumclaw Rotary.

Global eradication of polio, and the protection against this paralysis for every child on earth, is now within our reach during the next three years. In partnership with Rotary International, our local Enumclaw Rotary has participated in this Global Polio Eradication Initiative for more than 30 years and is endeavoring this month to raise $5,000 toward clearing the last three countries of polio.

Enumclaw Rotary invites you to join us at 5:15 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Chalet Theatre for a delayed viewing of the fifth annual World Polio Day Event hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It will be a special chance to gather and learn how very close we are to ending this paralyzing disease.

We are asking you to be part of this history-making dream. Not only will each dollar contributed be matched 2:1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but during October only, the District Rotary will match 1:1 each dollar Enumclaw raises, making a contribution of $10 leveraged to equal $40!

For most readers, poliomyelitis (polio) seems a part of history rather than a current public health challenge. The U.S. was declared polio-free in 1979, yet immunization continues because our world populations are not fully polio-free. Polio could return to the U.S., as it did in 1993 via travelers. Until polio is globally eradicated, all countries remain at risk of outbreaks. We are just steps away from eradicating polio.

Most countries became polio-free within three decades of the injectable vaccine, developed by Jonas Salk in 1955, and the oral vaccine by Arnold Sabin in 1961. Since 1985 when Rotary International launched its Polio Plus initiative to tackle global polio eradication, over 35,000 Rotary clubs around the world have contributed $1.7 billion and millions of volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. This effort resulted in a 99.9 percent reduction in polio cases, going from over a 1,000 cases per day to only a handful remaining in 3 countries. More than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis because of these efforts.

Polio is a paralyzing and potentially fatal preventable disease, striking primarily children. Its lifelong impacts changed the course of hundreds of thousands of children and young adults in this country. I remember as a young child when our mother took us to stand in long lines where mass immunizations were being offered – for both smallpox (eradicated in 1977) and polio. What I remember most was how relieved and happy she was. Enumclaw Rotary wants all parents everywhere to have the peace of mind their children are protected from polio. Please join our efforts on Oct. 24. Learn more at enumclawrotary.org and at endpolio.org.

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