A crowd of about 60 people attended the 5th annual “World Polio Day” event held by District 7190 at the UAlbany Health Sciences Campus on Tuesday evening.
The event included a live streaming of Rotary International’s information and a presentation by Bill Gates, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has for years partnered with Rotary to support ongoing polio immunization globally.
“What we’re looking at now is sort of the endgame of polio eradication,” says Dr. Jay Wenger, who leads the Gates Foundation’s polio eradication efforts. “We are closer than ever, and we’re optimistic that we can see the end of wild poliovirus disease by as early as this year.”
According to Dr. Wenger, there are only 12 known cases of the wild poliovirus in existence today, in just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. “In the last couple of years, we’ve seen unprecedented progress. In 2015 we could only find 74 cases; in 2016 we found 37, and then this year so far we’ve found only 12 in only two countries.”
That is a result of a mass immunization effort to orally vaccinate 2.5 billion children in 122 countries, bolstered by the 1988 launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. However, unless immunizations continue, cases of polio can quickly pop up and just as quickly begin spreading.
Tuesday’s local event included flu vaccinations for anyone interested, and several dozen people took advantage. SRC provided refreshments and, as club president Roberto Martinez reported, “We had one bag of chips left over and about five cookies.”
Here are several other images from the evening. (You can find the photos in album format on our club’s Facebook page.)