Eradication of Polio - It's Happening

Dr. Pullen discusses the worldwide efforts to eradicate polio, predicting that "polio is a disease of the past before the end of this decade."

When I joined the Puyallup — South Hill Rotary Club in 1987 I was asked to donate to the Rotary International Foundation’s Polio Plus campaign, with the stated goal of eradication of polio from the world. I didn’t know much about Rotary yet, but I knew enough about polio to think that this was a pretty bold and likely impossible goal. Polio is spread by the fecal-oral route, and with most of the world drinking unclean water this would mean immunization of nearly all the children in the world. This seemed like an impossible task. I had no clue about Rotary’s influence worldwide. I just thought this was a bunch of non-medical people trying to raise money for an futile cause. Little did I know that would become arguably the greatest single public health initiative in the history of the world. It has been an incredible success, in no small part to Rotary’s influence in many third world countries, the cooperation of the WHO, funding from major NGOs including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the leadership of Rotary International. Rotary has played a crucial role in convincing warring countries to have ceasefires for national immunization days (NIDs) to protect the children on both sides of the conflicts. Rotary has helped convince tribal leaders to allow access to their territory for NIDs. The power of Rotary’s reputation as being honorable and truly apolitical have convinced me that doing good in the world in a big way is possible. I have been so excited about the Polio Plus program that I’ve contributed to the campaign every year since 1987, and will continue to support the Rotary Foundation’s efforts.

This article in the NY Times talks to how close this effort is now, and how the final hurdles are being cleared. I’ll also link to an article on the Rotary International web site to give the Rotary perspective and post a You Tube on the Polio Plus efforts in India.

Still concerns exist. The Wall Street Journal outlines the challenges: Gates Rethinks His War on Polio.

Enjoy. I predict that polio is a disease of the past before the end of this decade.

Ed Pullen, MD, is a board-certified family physician practicing in Puyallup, WA. He blogs at DrPullen.com — A Medical Bog for the Informed Patient.

This article originally appeared online at DrPullen.com.