India’s National Polio Immunization Day

Clint gave Metro a most informative talk about his involvement as a Rotary International volunteer in 2015 National Immunization Day (NID) in India. The answer to the question, is polio still a problem, has to be yes until it is completely eradicated in the remaining three countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan where it is still endemic. Until poliovirus transmission is interrupted in these countries, all countries remain at risk of importation of polio, especially in the ‘poliovirus importation belt’ of countries from West Africa to the Horn of Africa.

Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 416 reported cases in 2013.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the facial-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, and stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. Polio (poliomyelitis) mainly affects children under 5 years of age. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 416 reported cases in 2013. The reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region, home to a quarter of the world’s population, was certified polio-free in March 2014 by an independent commission under the WHO certification process after having no polio cases reported in India for the past three years.
  • India embarked on a program to eradicate the nation of polio 19 years ago in 1995 when the disease used to cripple more than 50,000 children in the country every year.
  • Certification of the region comes as countries prepare for the introduction of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in routine immunization as part of the eventual phasing out of oral polio vaccines (OPV). More than 120 countries currently use only OPV. These countries will introduce a dose of IPV by the end of 2015 as part of their commitment to the global polio endgame plan which aims to ensure a polio-free world by 2018.
  • Polio was once a disease feared worldwide, striking suddenly and paralyzing mainly children for life. WHO is a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the largest private-public partnership for health, which has reduced polio by 99%.
  • Polio now survives only among the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities, where it stalks the most vulnerable children. The Initiative’s goal is to reach every last child with polio vaccine and ensure a polio-free world for future generations.

More than one million Rotary members have volunteered their time and personal resources to polio eradication. They have served alongside volunteers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO and UNICEF for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Rotary members also provide valuable field support during National Immunization Days through social mobilization and by administering the oral polio vaccine to children. Volunteers color the left pinkie with a purple marker after the child receives the dose that is administered only to children under the age of 5. One approximate way to determine if a child in in the right age range is to ask the child to reach over their head to touch their right ear with their left hand (or vice versa).

Part of the trip to India was spent in a tour of St Stephens Hospital where the remaining cases of polio are being treated as well as the Jaipur Foot Factory which provides prosthetics or artificial limbs, other physical aids and appliances, free of charge, to as many disabled people as possible through its centers, outreach programs and rehabilitation camps, both in India and abroad.

There was also some time to visit the beautiful Taj Mahal, take in the varied activities along the Ganges River as well as get first-hand experience with the incredibly congested Indian traffic.

Eradicating the last 1% of polio is critical but can be deadly, 76 Rotarians have been killed doing the work. Forbes magazine says, “But if we can’t get vaccine to children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, the three countries where polio is still endemic, the disease, eradicated in the rest of the world, will come back. Decades of work by Rotary International and, more recently, by Bill Gates, will be for nothing. This is a giant tragedy, not just because heroic workers who only want to help kids and end disease are being killed but because we may fail to completely eradicate a scourge when we are so very, very close.

(Reuters) – Gunmen on motorbikes shot dead nine health workers who were administering polio vaccinations in two separate attacks in Nigeria’s main northern city of Kano on Friday, police said.

No one claimed responsibility but Islamist militant group Boko Haram, a sect which has condemned the use of Western medicine, has been blamed for carrying out a spate of assaults on security forces in the city in recent weeks.”

More about our Speaker

President - Clint Schroeder

Clint Schroeder is a current member and past president of the Rotary Club of Metropolitan Honolulu, the elected District 5000 Governor for 2016-2017 and president of Hagadone Printing Company, Hawaii’s largest commercial printer.