End­ing an en­demic

Lo­cal Ro­tary club part of global move­ment to erad­i­cate po­lio for good

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - OPINION - PETER LOZINSKI

The lo­cal Ro­tary club is do­ing its part to end po­lio for good.

To­day is World Po­lio Day, and Ro­tar­i­ans are fan­ning out across the city to raise funds in sup­port of the in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to erad­i­cate po­lio.

Po­lio has no cure. It can be deadly. But it is 100 per cent pre­ventable.

Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional is a lead­ing force in the ef­fort to elim­i­nate po­lio. The or­ga­ni­za­tion has promised $150 mil­lion over the next three years, which will be matched 2:1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion to the tune of $450 mil­lion.

The fund­ing is a part of $1 bil­lion in pledges made in 2017 to fi­nally end the po­lio scourge.

In ad­di­tion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion and the Ro­tary Club, a hand­ful of other not-for-prof­its, govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions such as UNICEF and var­i­ous coun­tries have also pledged mil­lions to­wards the ini­tia­tive.

While de­vel­oped na­tions such as the United King­dom and Canada have contributed funds, the lead­ing na­tion­fun­ders are Pak­istan and Nige­ria, two of the coun­tries where po­lio is still a prob­lem.

“Po­lio is still a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem glob­ally, though we’ve made sig­nif­i­cant progress in terms of erad­i­cat­ing the dis­ease,” said Prince Al­bert Ro­tary Club pres­i­dent Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka.

“As of Sept. 13 of this year, we have had the virus only in three coun­tries, Afghanistan, Pak­istan and Nige­ria.”

Those three coun­tries are the only three where cases of wild po­liovirus (WPV) have been de­tected.

To sup­port the Ro­tary ef­forts, lo­cal Ro­tar­i­ans will set up ta­bles at Wal­mart, Cana­dian Tire and Co-op to col­lect do­na­tions and ed­u­cate the pub­lic about po­lio.

Mem­bers will also be go­ing door-todoor to fill up empty wa­ter jugs with change.

Since Ro­tary and its part­ners launched the Global Po­lio Erad­i­ca­tion Ini­tia­tive about 30 years ago, the in­ci­dence of po­lio has plum­meted by more than 99.9 per cent, from about 350,000 cases a year to just 37 in 2017.

So far, in 2017, there have only been 12 in­stances of the dis­ease, four in Pak­istan and eight in Afghanistan.

These 12 cases mean a de­crease in the to­tal number of cases. At this time last year, there were 27 global cases of WPV.

How­ever, in 2017, there have also been 61 cases of vac­cine-de­rived po­lio. The ma­jor­ity of the cases oc­curred in Syria, while an­other hand­ful oc­curred in the Congo.

Vac­cine-de­rived po­lio oc­curs in rare oc­ca­sions if a pop­u­la­tion is se­ri­ously un­der-im­mu­nized. An ex­creted vac­cine-virus can con­tinue to cir­cu­late for an ex­tended pe­riod of time. The longer it’s al­lowed to sur­vive, the more ge­netic changes it un­der­goes. In very rare cases, it can ge­net­i­cally change into a form that can paral­yse.

This takes a long time to oc­cur, gen­er­ally a pe­riod of at least 12 months cir­cu­lat­ing in an un-or un­der-im­mu­nized pop­u­la­tion.

Thus, to beat vac­cine-de­rived po­lio, ad­min­is­ter­ing more vac­cine – prop­erly – to a vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion will do the trick.

This form of po­lio oc­curs wen rout­ing or sup­ple­men­tary im­mu­niza­tion is poorly con­ducted and a pop­u­la­tion is left sus­cep­ti­ble to the virus, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) says.

“Hence, the prob­lem is not with the vac­cine it­self, but low vac­ci­na­tion cov­er­age. If a pop­u­la­tion is fully im­mu­nized, they will be pro­tected against both vac­cine-de­rived and wild po­lioviruses.”

Cases of that form are ex­ceed­ingly rare, and the ben­e­fits of im­mu­niz­ing against po­lio far out­weigh the small risk. Well over 10 mil­lion cases have been averted since large-scale im­mu­niza­tion be­gan, and cir­cu­lat­ing vac­cine-de­rived po­lio has also been stopped with a few rounds of high­qual­ity im­mu­niza­tion cam­paigns

“The so­lu­tion is the same for all po­lio out­breaks: im­mu­nize ev­ery child with the oral vac­cine to stop trans­mis­sion, re­gard­less of the ori­gin of the virus,” the WHO said.

That’s why Ro­tary is work­ing so hard to en­sure chil­dren world­wide are vac­ci­nated.

There are three main rea­sons chil­dren aren’t vac­ci­nated, Ndubuka said: Geo­graphic iso­la­tion, armed con­flicts and cul­tural bar­ri­ers.

“For Afghanistan, they are chal­lenged with iso­la­tion and con­flict, pre­vent­ing chil­dren in re­mote ar­eas from ac­cess­ing the vac­ci­na­tion,” he said.

“There are also is­sues of poor po­lit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture. So what Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional is do­ing is work­ing with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity … to mo­bi­lize re­sources and ded­i­cate fund­ing to op­er­a­tional sup­port and med­i­cal per­son­nel, pur­chas­ing equip­ment to sup­port and pro­mote im­mu­niza­tion of those hard-to-reach pop­u­la­tions.”

Ro­tary is also out to bat­tle the cul­tural per­cep­tion in some com­mu­ni­ties where they do not be­lieve in im­mu­niza­tion.

“Part of what we do is pro­mote to those par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ties the im­por­tance of get­ting kids im­mu­nized to achieve the herd im­mu­nity,” Ndubuka said.

“It’s an on­go­ing ef­fort to cre­ate that aware­ness and to en­sure in­di­vid­u­als are well-in­formed about po­lio.”

The so­lu­tion is the same for all po­lio out­breaks: im­mu­nize ev­ery child with the oral vac­cine to stop trans­mis­sion, re­gard­less of the ori­gin of the virus -- World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion

PHOTO COUR­TESY RO­TARY IN­TER­NA­TIONAL/FLICKR

A child re­ceives an oral dose of the po­lio vac­cine.

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