Westfield-Mayville Rotary Supports World Immunization Week, Polio Eradication

Rotary International has been working to eradicate polio for more than 30 years.

The Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville has supported this cause and continues to do so. The World Health Organization has designated April 24-30 as World Immunization Week to highlight the importance of vaccines. As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), Rotary has reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent and has saved more than 13 million children from paralysis, since its first project of vaccinating children in the Philippines in 1979.

Caused by a virus, polio is a highly infectious disease that is spread from person to person. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis within a few hours. Among those who are paralyzed, 5 percent to 10 percent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

The first major international initiative to wipe out polio through mass vaccination of children began in 1985 when Rotary International launched its PolioPlus campaign. To date, Rotary has helped to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries, and it has contributed more than $1.9 billion and countless volunteer hours toward eradicating the disease worldwide. The average cost to fully protect one child from contracting the crippling and sometimes paralyzing disease of polio is US $3, if all related immunization expenses are included.

From 2016 to 2018 the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club conducted its successful “PolioPlus Challenge” and raised $11,715.46 in eighteen months, surpassing its $10,000 goal, thanks to the generous support of a local foundation, numerous organizations and individuals, and its club members. The locally raised funds were contributed to the The Rotary Foundation PolioPlus Fund. After contributions from matching grants were applied, the total amount generated became $65,146.38. This resulted in 108,577 children being able to receive the polio vaccine.

Jim Wakeman is the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club Foundation Chair, and he served as this club’s PolioPlus Challenge Chair. He continues to promote the importance of helping to eradicate polio by making tax-deductible financial contributions to Rotary’s PolioPlus Fund.

In 1988, the wild poliovirus was present in more than 125 countries, and it paralyzed 350,000 people every year, mostly young children. GPEI was launched to coordinate global polio eradication efforts. It is a public-private partnership led by national governments with the following five partners: Rotary International, the World Health Organization (WHO), US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Since joining the GPEI in 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to contribute nearly US $3 billion toward eradicating polio by 2020. Polio is endemic only in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, and in 2019 there have been 9 cases reported globally. If this highly contagious disease is not fully eradicated, it is predicted that there could be a resurgence of as many as 200,000 new cases annually.

In August 2018 Rotary offered US $96.5 million to support the global effort to end polio. Areas of focus towards polio eradication include polio vaccination campaigns, routine immunization systems, surveillance and monitoring, data-driven decision making, containment policy and transition planning. Global collaboration and innovation have resulted in new tools and methods to help improve logistical planning to eradicate polio.

Those wishing to support the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville in its campaign to assist in global polio eradication efforts and make tax-deductible donations to Rotary’s PolioPlus Fund may contact Jim Wakeman, Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville Foundation Chair, jimwakeman67@gmail.com or 814-450-1866. Paint your pinkie purple and help spread the word to others about World Immunization Week.