Local Rotary Club supports World Polio Day

Published 11:39 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

The Chilton County chapter of the Rotary Club, in partnership with Rotary International, is taking part in World Polio Day on Oct. 24.

According to the World Health Organization, “World Polio Day was established by Rotary International…to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis (commonly known as polio). Use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of the oral poliovirus, developed by Albert Sabin, led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988.”

Salk developed a polio vaccine in 1955, and Sabin’s oral polio vaccine was licensed by the United States government in 1960.

Rotary International began efforts to combat polio in 1979 before launching the GPEI with WHO in 1988.

According to WHO, “Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines. Polio can be prevented through immunization. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.”

Rotary International has a map on endpolio.org that shows just how widespread polio was in 1988. There were an estimated 350,000 cases in 125 countries. Thanks to efforts like the GPEI, that number has dropped substantially.

“Last year, there were 19 cases of polio in the world,” said Gordon Swenson, the president of the local Rotary Club chapter. “They are in three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are so close to eradication. Once (the world) goes three years without any reported cases, a disease is declared to be dead.”

Swenson said the local Rotary Club chapter has helped sponsor a showing of the movie “Breathe” at New Vision Chantilly 13 theater in Montgomery on Tuesday, Oct. 22. A program will be held before the movie beginning at 6 p.m.

“It’s about a man who contracted polio and rose above it,” Swenson said.

According to a press release from the organization, “In 1941, newspapers across Alabama were reporting widespread polio outbreaks across the state. Some simply contracted flu like symptoms. Others were permanently paralyzed, and some died. As a result of Rotary’s efforts, over 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated and protected from polio (worldwide).”

Swenson said that Rotary International wanted to do something that would have a “big impact” on the world when the organization decided to join the fight against polio worldwide.

“It’s empowering,” he said about being part of an organization like Rotary that has helped fight such a disease. “It shows what can happen when you work together to do things as a group.”

For more information on Rotary International or on the organization’s fight to eradicate polo worldwide, visit rotary.org or endpolio.org.