Ending an endemic
Local Rotary club part of global movement to eradicate polio for good
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
A child receives an oral dose of the polio vaccine.