Local Rotary club part of massive efforts to eradicate polio
BAR HARBOR—One party. One movie viewing. One walk-a-thon. Sometimes even $1 or less at a time, Rotarians around the world have worked for the past three decades, not just to make their communities better, but to try to keep communities around the world safe from polio. All of those hours are volunteer hours. All of those Rotarians are giving up their time for free.
This Sunday Bar Harbor/MDI Rotary club continued with its own efforts to help eradicate polio worldwide as it held a special fundraiser showing of the original Ghostbusters at the Criterion Theater on Sunday, Oct. 23rd.
“The club raised approximately $500 to contribute towards Rotary Internationals ongoing work to eradicate polio, said President Ron Wrobel Sr. “The club thanks all that attended and donated and the Criterion for hosting the event.”
It was just one of many efforts the club undertook since the late 1980s and the local Rotary club’s efforts are just one cog in a massive effort led by Rotary International, an international nonprofit organization of over 1 million members and volunteers who have focused on eradicating polio since the 1980s, back when there were approximately 350,000 polio cases across more than 125 countries in one year.
Cases have decreased by over 99.9% since then. This translates to saving 20 million from becoming paralyzed. The organization has been a part of immunizing 3 billion children and donated $2.6 billion toward polio’s eradication, securing $10 billion for governments around the globe.
Those efforts were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Current Rotary International President, Jennifer Jones, who is based in Canada said, “The world has beaten back this disease significantly, but we must redouble efforts.”
The World Health Organization’s Director General Dr. Tedros A. Ghebreyesus said at World Polio Day 2022 and Beyond, “Since the initiative was established in 1988, we have reduced cases by 99.9%, from 350.000 a year to just six last year. And that is thanks, at least in part, to Rotary and Rotarians. However, we have lost ground this year, with 20 cases in Pakistan, two in Afghanistan and six in Mozambique. Meanwhile, a case of vaccine-derived polio in the USA, and the discovery of poliovirus in sewage in the UK, show that polio will remain a global threat until it’s eradicated everywhere. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s five-year strategy is designed to overcome the current challenges with proven solutions, adaptation and innovative tools. The US $2.6 billion pledged earlier this week will support efforts to integrate polio activities in routine immunization and other essential health programs in affected countries. They will help us to roll out type 2 novel oral vaccine, and support the GPEI’s commitment to empowering women at all levels. Gender equality is critical to achieving eradication. Polio eradication is and will remain a priority for WHO.”
To that end, the international organization had pledged an additional $150 million to its commitment toward polio eradication. The Bar Harbor club’s donation is part of that larger effort.
A polio-free world has been the hopes of Rotary and many. In New York this summer, an unvaccinated young man was diagnosed with polio. He was paralyzed. Prior to this, the United States was considered polio free. According to an article in Yahoo!news by Nancy Cutler, “Circulation of the virus has now been documented in Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, Nassau counties, as well as in parts of New York City.”
The last case in the U.S. of naturally occurring polio was in 1979. The vaccine occurred in 1955. It spreads from person-to-person contact and the virus (poliomyelitis) stays in a person’s gut and throat.
Polio can lead to death or paralysis. Acccording to the Maine CDC, “The majority of people who are infected with the polio virus show no symptoms, however less than 1% of cases do develop paralysis that may result in permanent disability or even death.”
Cutler goes on to write, “The case was alarming because for every case of paralytic polio, there are likely hundreds of other people who had the virus but were asymptomatic or suffered flu-like symptoms. Its spread can be silent and rapid.
NY health officials have declared it an ‘imminent threat.’
“For every one case of paralytic polio identified, hundreds more may be undetected,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.
“As a member of the Rotary Club of Spring Valley NY, located in the heart of Rockland County, New York where Polio reemerged recently, I am fully aware of the fact that the battle still rages on,” said Seraphim Wood.
Maine’s current vaccination rate for kindergarten students is just over 94%. The national average is 93%
For more about Rotary’s work to eradicate polio visit this website: https://www.rotary.org/en/our-causes/ending-polio
For more about the local club: https://portal.clubrunner.ca/5539/
To listen in on some of Rotary’s efforts for World Polio Day and learn more: https://www.endpolio.org/world-polio-day
Other Links To Learn More:
Bar Harbor Story is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work trying to get local news out there to all who want it regardless of ability to pay, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.