World Polio Day / October 24, 2017
Service Above Self
Building Responsible Youth
Letter to the Editor of the StarTribune in honor of World Polio Day October 24, 2017
October 24 is World Polio Day. It honors Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine in 1955, and celebrates the partnership of Rotary International, World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Our mutual goal is to totally eradicate polio. In the 1952 US polio epidemic, 58,000 cases were reported with 3,000 deaths and 21,000 cases of permanent paralysis. Polio was one of the nation’s two greatest fears, second only to the fear of atomic war. Globally, polio paralyzed or killed up to 500,000 annually. Thankfully those days are behind us but without vigilance, we risk another epidemic.
Rotary is an international service organization that began in 1905. Chicago businessmen “rotated” their meetings at members’ offices to promote business and good fellowship. Over time, the focus changed to community service with a motto of “Service Above Self.” Today there are 1.2 million Rotary members worldwide including 7,000 in Minnesota.
Rotary first addressed polio eradication in 1979 with a project in the Philippines to vaccinate 6 million children. The idea quickly expanded and by 1985 PolioPlus was launched. This was the first and the largest internationally coordinated private sector support of a public health initiative. Its goal was to immunize every child. So far, we have immunized 3 billion children.
During National Immunization Days, all children in the community under the age of 5 are vaccinated. Three doses costing 12 cents per dose provide lifelong immunity. Polio cases are down 99.9% since 1988 and now endemic polio is found in only three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. These are incredibly challenging countries to work in, because they have much bigger issues to contend with than polio. Only 8 polio cases have been reported in 2017.
The Minnetonka Rotary Club joined Rotary International’s commitment to raise $50 million per year over the next three years, an amount the Gates Foundation will match 2-to-1. Our club of 60 members raised $2900 last year and we will surpass that amount this year. We are optimistic that polio will cease to exist if we maintain our focus but it is important that we continue with our efforts since we are “so close!”
To learn more, visit www.endpolio.org or www.minnetonkarotary.org