New Westminster is joining cities around the world in proclaiming Oct. 24 as World Polio Day.
The city’s World Polio Day proclamation notes that Rotary International launched Polio Plus, and spearheaded the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organizations, U.S. Centre for Disease Control, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has immunized almost three billion children in 122 countries.
“Annual polio cases caused by the wild polio virus have dropped from 350,000 in 1988 to 140 in 2020, and only 19 to date in 2022, preventing death or paralysis in an estimated 20 million children, and the world stands on the threshold of eradicating this disease forever.”
Roy Prevost of the Royal City Rotary Club told council about Rotarians’ efforts to eliminate polio.
“In the mid-1950s, polio was a highly infectious, devastating disease affecting more than 350,000 children each year, attacking the nervous system and resulting in death and paralysis or deformity in those that survived,” he told council. “The results in the developed world were terrible for the victims.”
Prevost said the effects were challenging for children in developed nations but were magnified in the developing world, where it impacted people’s ability to get an education, to get a job and to have a family. He said the development of the polio vaccine in 1955 provided hope that the disease could be eliminated in the future, and the creation of the oral polio vaccine in 1959 made the vaccine process much easier and effective.
Prevost said two drops from an eye dropper taken orally caused cases of polio to plummet in the developed world, but much of the world still didn’t have access to the vaccine for children.
“This changed in 1979 when Rotary started a program to vaccinate all children in the Philippines,” he said. “Progress in containing the disease resulted in Rotary training with the World Health Organization and others to implement the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and immunize all the children in the world and get rid of the disease forever.”
Prevost said children in places like Africa, Southeast Asia and southern Central America have been vaccinated and certified polio free by the World Health Organization in the past decade.
According to Prevost, there were 140 case of polio reported in 2020, six in 2021 and 27 in 2022 (in conflict zones where there are dangers to operate, people are suspicious of Western medicine and governments may not be as cooperative.)
“Also, reports from New York and London of a circulating virus in the sewage system recently gave cause for alarm and emphasised the need for constant surveillance and vaccination programs throughout the world,” he said.
In late September, Rotary International announced an additional US $150 million in funding to finish its “marathon project” of eradicating polio, Prevost said.