"Immunization takes only 2 drops on the tongue of a child to remove their risk of Polio for life!" says Don Partrick, Chairman of The Rotary Club of Brandon #1344.

Today is World Polio Day, a time for Rotary members, public health advocates, and all who want a world free from polio to come together, recognize Rotary International's progress in the fight to end polio, and talk about the actions we need to take in order to end polio for good.    

The Polio vaccine came about in 1955, says Partrick. "I can remember when the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Winnipeg was loaded with Iron Lungs, and the people who were afflicted with Polio and couldn't breathe. They needed help to expand their lungs otherwise they would just die."

Polio is a highly infectious disease, mostly affecting young children, that attacks the nervous system and can lead to spinal and respiratory paralysis, and in some cases death,' states the World Health Organization (WHO) website. 'By the mid-20th century, the poliovirus could be found all over the world and killed or paralyzed over half a million people every year. With no cure, and epidemics on the rise, there was an urgent need for a vaccine.'

'A breakthrough occurred in 1949, when poliovirus was successfully cultivated in human tissue by John Enders, Thomas Weller and Frederick Robbins at Boston Children’s Hospital. Not long afterwards, in the early 1950s, the first successful vaccine was created by US physician Jonas Salk. Salk tested his experimental killed-virus vaccine on himself and his family in 1953, and a year later on 1.6 million children in Canada, Finland and the USA.' 

'The results were announced on 12 April 1955, and Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) was licensed on the same day. By 1957, annual cases dropped from 58 000 to 5600, and by 1961, only 161 cases remained.  

'A second type of polio vaccine, the oral polio vaccine (OPV) was developed by physician and microbiologist Albert Sabin.  Sabin’s vaccine was live-attenuated (using the virus in weakened form) and could be given orally, as drops or on a sugar cube.' 

In 1985 Rotary International launched a program to raise funds to combat the spread of the Polio virus.  They raised $120 million. In 1988 Rotary developed an association with WHO called the Global Polio Eradication Program.  

In 38 years, Rotary International together with their partners changed the annual Polio virus infection 'starts' from over 450,000 cases per year to less than 100 worldwide per year, having reduced the incidence of start cases by 99.9%!  An amazing feat for any organization.  With only two countries still left with the Polio endemic, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the world is very close to wiping out Polio completely worldwide.  

Canada’s last case of wild polio was 1977. In 1994 WHO certified Canada free of wild polio virus. In 2022, endemic wild polio virus type 1 is in Afghanistan & Pakistan.

Please listen to more with Don Partrick below, and let's celebrate with Rotary International on this amazing accomplishment!

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