For those of us old enough to remember, hearing the word polio brings back major discomfort.   It brings the vision of young children being crippled for life or crying in agony while living in iron lungs.   It was certainly a time of celebration when the Salk vaccine was developed and then widely dispersed.   Since that time, tremendous improvement has occurred in most countries of the world in eradicating polio.
In 1979, the Philippine government and Rotary International agreed to vaccinate six million children against polio.  This was the basis for starting PolioPlus I 1985 –Rotary’s effort to eradicate polio worldwide which was the first organization with the vision of a polio-free world.   Rotary’s primary responsibilities include fundraising, advocacy, and volunteer recruitment.

This effort led to Rotary helping launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI} which also includes the following partners:  World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children’s Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Through the combined efforts of these organizations, the goal is to totally eradicate polio by the end of 2023.  The only countries still experiencing new cases of this disease are Pakistan and Afghanistan with civil strife in these countries being a major inhibitor to eradication.

Now we’re confronted with the most significant global pandemic in a century in COVID-19.  The vision is to use the same level of joint collaboration between countries that took place during the development of the polio vaccine.  As you’re probably aware, tremendous efforts are taking place throughout the globe in developing an effective vaccine with Operation Warpspeed being the overarching effort in our own country.

However, not only are efforts going on at the national and international level , our own Rotary Club of Blanco County is hard at work in preparing the delivering Hygiene Kits in our county.  From Sept. 19, 2019 to Oct. 20, 2020 we have donated hundreds of these kits and with Rotary support we will help as many seniors, students and homeless as possible during this pandemic.

We hope and pray that the current pandemic will be in our rear view mirror by this time next year due to developing an effective vaccine that will have been widely dispersed.

Also, we plan to have a community fundraiser in Blanco County next year to support global polio eradication efforts in lieu of this year due to the restrictions caused  by COVID-19.