Guest column/Let’s help Rotary in eliminating polio now

World Polio Day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis. 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 in 1988. As of 2013, GPEI had reduced polio worldwide by 99 percent.

World Polio Day will be celebrated on Wednesday, to generate awareness toward eradication of polio as well as to commemorate the efforts of thousands of employees of Rotary and other volunteers committed to the eradication of polio.

One of the commendable achievements of the World Polio Day 2017 hosted by the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation was that the foundation, along with Rotary clubs, made a commitment to raise nearly $450 billion toward worldwide eradication of polio.

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.

As a member and president of the Steubenville Rotary, I am extremely proud of the efforts of Rotary International. Today, we are looking back at nearly three decades of concerted global polio eradication efforts.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was created in 1988 after the World Health Assembly resolved to eradicate poliomyelitis globally and has since made remarkable progress toward reaching the eradication target.

As a result, polio cases globally decreased by more than 99 percent from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988, to only 37 reported cases in 2016. Furthermore, the number of countries with polio endemic decreased from 125 to only three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. However, until the polio virus transmission is interrupted in these polio endemic countries, all countries remain at risk of polio importation.

You don’t need to be a Rotarian to help end polio. On Wednesday join Rotary for its fourth-annual World Polio Day event, co-hosted with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Streamed live from CDC headquarters in Atlanta, this event will bring together more than 50,000 viewers around the world. Join celebrities and experts and share this opportunity to mark the progress made on the road to polio eradication.

Becoming a Rotarian will certainly provide you with the sense of accomplishment all Rotarians have. Rotary International is the world’s first and largest humanitarian service organization with a global network of 1.2 million members in more than 170 countries. Through its PolioPlus program, established in 1985, Rotary was the first to have the vision of a polio-free world.

More than 1 million Rotary members have volunteered their time and personal resources to polio eradication. Rotary members also provide valuable field support during National Immunization Days through social mobilization and by administering the oral polio vaccine to children. Rotary is the main private sector donor to polio eradication, and will have contributed more than $ 1.2.

Let’s end polio now.

(Murdock is the president of the Rotary Club of Steubenville.)