World Polio Day: An uplifting progress report

From Rotary International

Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) are celebrating a major milestone this World Polio Day: confirmation that a second type of the wild polio virus has been eradicated, which is a significant step toward the ultimate goal of a polio-free world.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced the historic feat in a video address during Rotary’s Global Online Update today. He said an independent commission of health experts certified the global eradication of the type 3 strain, which hasn’t been detected anywhere in the world since Nigeria identified a case of polio that it caused in November 2012. The type 2 strain was certified as eradicated in 2015.

“That leaves just wild poliovirus type 1,” Tedros said. He also commended Rotary’s long fight against polio. “Everything you [Rotary] have done has brought us to the brink of a polio-free world.”

Tedros balanced the good news with a note of caution, saying that the biggest enemy of global eradication is complacency. He encouraged Rotary members to redouble their efforts.

“We must stay the course. Together, we can make sure the children of the future only learn about polio in history books.”

“If we stopped now, the virus would resurge and could once again cause more than 200,000 new cases every year,” Tedros said. “We must stay the course. Together, we can make sure the children of the future only learn about polio in history books.”

Rotary’s World Polio Day program this year was streamed on Facebook in multiple languages and multiple time zones around the world. The program, which was sponsored by UNICEF USA and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, featured TV presenter and Paralympic medalist Ade Adepitan, supermodel Isabeli Fontana, science educator Bill Nye, and actress Archie Panjabi.

The program also featured never-before-seen footage of three Rotary members working to protect children from polio in their home countries of India, Pakistan, and Ukraine. In Pakistan, Rotarian Tayyaba Gul works with a team of health workers to educate mothers and children about the importance of polio vaccination. Dr. Hemendra Verma of India encourages his fellow Rotary members and our partners to make sure health workers and volunteers reach every child. And Ukrainian Rotarian Sergii Zavadskyi oversees an advocacy and awareness program that uses social media and public events to educate people who are reluctant to have their children vaccinated. These three heroes of the polio eradication effort show what it means to be a dedicated volunteer, and represent the efforts of Rotarians all over the world.

Adepitan, a polio survivor who contracted the disease as a child in Nigeria, praised the efforts in that country, which hasn’t reported finding wild poliovirus in more than three years. “This is massive news,” Adepitan said.

Nigeria’s milestone clears the way for the entire WHO African region to be certified wild poliovirus-free next year. Adepitan reminded people just how far the continent has come, saying that even a decade ago, Africa reported nearly 75 percent of all polio cases worldwide.

“Today more than a billion African people are at the cusp of a future where wild polio is a disease of the past,” he said. “We’re not done. We’re in pursuit of an even greater triumph — a world without polio. I can’t wait.”

Scientist Bill Nye talked about some people’s reluctance to use vaccines, which he called a dangerous issue around the world. “As the conversation around vaccines becomes more hostile, we’re seeing an increase in outbreaks of preventable diseases. It’s not just measles. It’s rotavirus. Tetanus. Even polio,” he said. However, he said: “The science on vaccinations is settled. There is no dispute.”

Look even just at what Rotary and its partners have achieved since 1988, when the GPEI was formed, Nye said. Three decades ago, the disease affected 350,000 children in one year. Because of massive vaccination campaigns around the world, the number of polio cases has decreased by more than 99.9%.

“That’s about as concrete as evidence gets for preventative medicine,” Nye said.

Despite these accomplishments, polio cases are rising in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan that face tremendous challenges: They are difficult to get to and travel in, they are often not secure enough for vaccinators to do their work, and people are highly mobile. In all of 2018, these two countries reported just 33 wild poliovirus cases. The 2019 case count is so far is 88, and health experts predict more cases to come.

Michel Zaffran, director of polio eradication at WHO, discussed the increased number of cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “At its core, polio eradication is very simple: If you vaccinate enough children in given areas, then the virus has nowhere to hide and eventually disappears,” Zaffran said.

It gets more complicated, he said, when thousands of children are not being vaccinated in some areas. “The reasons vary greatly, district to district, in both countries,” he added. “It could be because there is hampered access due to insecurity, lack of infrastructure, lack of clean water supply, inadequate planning of campaigns, community resistance, and other reasons.”

To combat any further spread of the disease, Zaffran says health workers are evaluating each area to understand why a child is missed and making customized plans to overcome the area’s specific challenges.

This approach is similar to how health experts overcame the last hurdles in India, which was declared polio-free in 2014.

“I encourage Rotary members everywhere to stick with it and stay optimistic,” Zaffran said. “Keep raising funds and awareness, advocate with governments. We truly are on the cusp of eradicating a disease for only the second time in human history.”

If it is eradicated, polio would follow smallpox as the second human disease eliminated from the world.

Rotary has contributed more than $2 billion to polio eradication since it launched the PolioPlus program in 1985, and is committed to raising $50 million a year for polio eradication activities. Because of a 2-to-1 matching agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that means that $150 million a year goes toward fulfilling Rotary’s promise to the children of the world: no child will ever again suffer the devastating effects of polio.


Polio outbreak in Philippines first in 19 years

Screen Shot 2019-09-19 at 3.21.37 PMFrom the World Health Organization

An outbreak of polio was declared today in the Philippines, the first such occurrence since the Pacific Ocean nation was declared polio free 19 years ago.

People in the Philippines, primarily children, now are at risk of death or lifelong paralysis because of this outbreak.

The Philippine Department of Health and partners are working together on a comprehensive outbreak response, including mass polio immunization rounds beginning in October. All children, regardless of whether they are covered by the mass immunization campaign or not, should be vaccinated according to the routine immunization schedule.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is supporting the Philippine government’s response. The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with five partners — the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. GPEI’s goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.


 

‘Pints for Polio’ beer social at Wolf Hollow

Screen Shot 2019-09-17 at 3.04.00 PMVarious clubs in District 7190 raise funds in a variety of ways for Rotary International’s anti-polio efforts worldwide. SRC, for example, directs portions of several events toward that effort.

Here’s another club’s idea, “Pints for Polio.” It’s an event created by the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Rotary.

The social event will run from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, September 26, at the Wolf Hollow Brewing Company, 6882 Amsterdam Road, Glenville. It is open to all.


 

Today is the 65th anniversary of polio vaccine trials

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One of the 1954 polio vaccine clinics in New York.

From The History Channel

On this day in 1954, the Salk polio vaccine field trials, involving 1.8 million children, begin at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, VA.

Children in the United States, Canada and Finland participated in the trials, which used for the first time the now-standard double-blind method, whereby neither the patient nor attending doctor knew if the inoculation was the vaccine or a placebo.

On April 12, 1955, researchers announced the vaccine was safe and effective and it quickly became a standard part of childhood immunizations in America. In the ensuing decades, polio vaccines would all but wipe out the highly contagious disease in the Western Hemisphere.

Polio, known officially as poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease that has existed since ancient times and is caused by a virus. It occurs most commonly in children and can result in paralysis. The disease reached epidemic proportions throughout the first half of the 20th Century. During the 1940s and 1950s, polio was associated with the iron lung, a large metal tank designed to help polio victims suffering from respiratory paralysis breathe.

President Franklin Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921 at the age of 39 and was left paralyzed from the waist down and forced to use leg braces and a wheelchair for the


Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for more than 30 years. Since 1979, we have vaccinated more than 2.5 billion children, and the dread disease has been virtually eliminated everywhere on Earth except for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. But we haven’t done it alone. Click here to see a timeline for our partnerships.


rest of his life. In 1938, Roosevelt helped found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later renamed the March of Dimes. The organization was responsible for funding much of the research concerning the disease, including the Salk vaccine trials.

The man behind the original vaccine was New York-born physician and epidemiologist Jonas Salk (1914-95). Salk’s work on an anti-influenza vaccine in the 1940s, while at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, led him, in 1952 at the University of Pittsburgh, to develop the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), based on a killed-virus strain of the disease. The 1954 field trials that followed, the largest in U.S. history at the time, were led by Salk’s former University of Michigan colleague Dr. Thomas Francis Jr.

In the late 1950s, Polish-born physician and virologist Albert Sabin (1906-1993) tested an oral polio vaccine (OPV) he had created from a weakened live virus. The vaccine, easier to administer and cheaper to produce than Salk’s, became available for use in America in the early 1960s and eventually replaced Salk’s as the vaccine of choice in most countries.

Today, polio has been eliminated throughout much of the world due to the vaccine; however, there still is no cure for the disease and it persists in a small number of countries in Africa and Asia.


 

Rotary hockey fans, here’s a night out

 

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This annual District 7190 outing helps usher in  the busy holiday season.

The venue is the Cool Insurance Arena, formerly known as the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Tickets are just $15 and are available directly from Doug Ford (ford@curtislumber.com) or Sandy McAlonie (SMRotary1213@gmail.com).  Shoot them an email and they will hook you up.

Besides helping raise funds to battle polio, you also can participate in the local coat collection. See the flyer for details.

Questions?  Call Doug at 518-365-4958 or Sandy at 518-339-9904.


The ‘plus’ in Polio Plus broadens our mandate to help

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 5.57.56 PMBy FRED DANIELS
Governor, District 7190

You’ve heard the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, Rotary has been at the forefront of prevention for many decades now, and the leadership at Rotary International and District 7190 are rightfully focusing on prevention in many ways, big and small.

December is “Disease Prevention and Treatment Month” on the Rotary calendar. Of course, we all know about Rotary’s commitment to end polio forever, and this month we’ll have Rotarians in Glens Falls to enjoy an Adirondack Thunder pro hockey game on December 9 to raise both awareness of, and funds for, Polio Plus.

Have you ever wondered what the “plus” is in Polio Plus? The framers of the polio effort included other treatable diseases in the “plus” category, such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, and several others that are eminently preventable through vaccinatiion. And, while the emphasis has been squarely on polio, there are throughout the world many large scale Rotary-sponsored efforts to prevent these other diseases.

We are working on numerous projects to prevent disease right in our own backyard as well. Several clubs offer information and service projects aimed at Lyme disease, and one club has taken over the local DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in collaboration with a sheriff’s department. No less important are the many clubs that participate in hunger-related programs such as weekend backpack efforts so kids who are better fed can be healthier, concentrate harder, and miss less school.

I also know of several clubs that are starting to talk seriously about tackling opioid abuse, and that is a big, complex topic. If your club is interested in this issue, please contact me. I’d like to connect the interested clubs for a deeper conversation.

All of this great work notwithstanding, prevention takes on many forms. Certainly, disease treatment and prevention are critical topics, but there are several versions of prevention that also are important.

How about these?

• Let’s prevent Rotarians from drifting away from our clubs. Getting a new Rotarian to join a club follows the sales process: it takes about 10 good prospects to bring in one new member. In comparison, about 25% of new Rotarians leave a club within a year for reasons which mostly can be controlled. Why do Rotarians drift away? The biggest reason is that they are not engaged meaningfully in the life of the club, and this is something we definitely can control.

• Let’s prevent irrelevance. Rotarians do incredible work, and it is all good. But, this does not mean all of the work we do is perceived as relevant. Has your club leadership recently had a meaningful conversation about the relevance of the club’s service initiatives? How does the community benefit? Have community leaders been asked to identify what the community actually needs the club to be doing? This effort alone can effectively prevent the perception that Rotary is no longer relevant.

• Let’s prevent resistance to change. Rotary is starting to change. Leadership at the top of Rotary International recently took steps to accelerate change. Our clubs are beginning to adopt change, and that starts with taking some time to think through what’s important to the culture of the club. Can those important things be made more relevant? More engaging? Can “how” we do “what” we do be improved for the good? By the way, most clubs making significant changes are reporting good results in membership and vibrancy.

District 7190 is on the right track. We continue to be more gender balanced (34.5% now, still with a ways to go). We are gaining in racial and ethnic diversity, though this needs more work and careful thought. And, we are getting very busy being more innovative, dynamic, and responsive.

Dynamic innovation makes progress in the two other categories easier. As we become more responsive to our communities our clubs’ racial and ethnic composition should look more like the communities we serve. As we are more innovative and dynamic we increase the ability to attract and retain the kinds of members we want, who share the vision and ideals of Rotary.

Maybe the phrase should be, “An ounce of prevention yields a pound of cure.” Let’s cure all our ills, real and perceived. Thank you for the incredible work you do.


 

Cellphone push helping polio immunization efforts

The prevalence of cellphones in our daily lives can make us forget there are many parts of the world where such devices are a luxury, even a rarity.

When it comes to the three largely-rural countries where polio still exists — Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria — getting cellphones to the right people is playing a growing role in the Rotary-led immunization campaign that has taken polio from a global scourge to an isolated disease.

In Pakistan, for example, providing cellphones to the people carrying out the immunizations is replacing the traditional paper record keeping and allowing wider and faster access to vaccines. Take a look at the brief video above.