Below is a communication shared from the Rotary International President Barry Rassin, which emphasizes the important need for preventative vaccines, and how you can show your support this year as we celebrate the end of Polio.
While traveling in Madagascar in late February, I learned more about the measles outbreak that, according to reports from the World Health Organization, has killed over 900 people since September. One of the main reasons behind this epidemic has been the low vaccination rate against measles. This has been one of many examples I’ve seen that showcases the importance of vaccines and how devastating a disease can be without them.
Immunization saves millions of lives every year. Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions, but the situation in Madagascar is just one of many recent examples that shows vaccine-preventable diseases still persist. That’s why I hope you’ll join me in spreading the word about the importance of vaccinations during World Immunization Week, 24-30 April.
When a child receives the polio vaccine, their pinkie is marked with purple ink so health workers know which children are protected. During World Immunization Week, you can help raise awareness of vaccination and polio eradication efforts and paint your nails — or pinkie — purple. For a chance to be featured on Rotary’s social media channels, take a photo and share it on your page using the hashtags #EndPolio and #VaccinesWork.
As Rotarians, we know firsthand that vaccines work. We have contributed more than $1.9 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children from polio. Esther and I just recently participated in providing polio immunizations. Last November we joined Dr. Tunji Funsho, chair of the Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, and local Rotarians in Abuja, Nigeria to volunteer at the Family Health Clinic Garki. It’s a very powerful experience to know that you’re helping children avoid a terrible disease with something as small as two drops of vaccine. We will never forget the look in the eyes of each mother who knew that Rotary was saving their child.
As one of the last three polio-endemic countries, Nigeria has done excellent work in battling polio. In the Borno region of Nigeria, we were able to reach twice as many inaccessible children in October 2018 than the year before. That means nearly 100,000 children were immunized who would have otherwise been missed. Furthermore, Nigeria hasn’t reported a case of wild poliovirus in more than two and a half years, and the country could soon be declared polio-free.
Our time in the Family Health Clinic Garki was an important reminder that while Rotary has made great progress, the fight against polio isn’t over. World Immunization Week is an excellent opportunity to shed light on our cause. I hope you’ll join me to Be the Inspiration and encourage your fellow Rotarians to continue supporting our cause until polio has been certified as gone for good.
Yours in Rotary,
President, Rotary International 2018-19