November 18, 2009

Rotarians Eradicating Polio

November 10, 2009: Our speaker Ms. Sharon Brigner MS, RN, Deputy Vice President for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America, a trade association in Washington, DC, shared where we are in our battle to eradicate polio. She gave us unique and fresh insight as to how Rotary has been instrumental in helping to stymie the spread of and reduce damage from the devastating effects from polio since it launched its Polio Plus campaign in 1985. While great progress has been made throughout most of the world, there is still significant work to be done in the four countries of India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

She praised Rotary's contribution in creating a 99% reduction in the number of polio cases worldwide since 1988. Through these efforts type 2 Wild Polio Virus was eradicated in 1999. With all that good news, there are approximately 1500 cases in four countries that have a polio epidemic. It has been determined that switching to a "polio control" approach would actually cost more than eradicating the disease; therefore, it is essential that we continue routine immunization and focus on fully eradicating polio. Rotary has and will continue to have a key role in this mission.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the Rotary Foundation a $100 million Grant to support the Global Polio Eradication initiative in 2007. Rotary's challenge now is to match these funds over three years. A great deal of focus is being put on improving global health, including polio. The Global Health Progress initiative seeks to bring research-based biopharmaceutical companies and global health leaders together to improve the health in the developing world.

According to Ms. Brigner, even with all the resources devoted to and focus by world leaders, Rotary still plays a very key role in eradicating polio. In some of the more difficult to access areas, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, Rotary members can get access to and supplies into remote and hard to reach areas easier than the government. She praised Rotary for not only their financial support, but also for their contacts with people to get things done in these areas.

We must continue to be vigilant and focus on fully eradicating polio. Even in the United States, with the resistance by individuals to vaccinate children, polio could make resurgence if we do not make it a priority.

Submitted by Wayne Outlaw, Keyway Committee