Polio has been a scourge of humanity for thousands of years. It is a highly contagious disease that attacks the nervous system and can result in crippling paralysis and even death. However, the development of an effective vaccine in the 1950’s and a monumental effort to inoculate the world’s children has reduced polio to a handful of cases in three countries. “We are this close to eradicating polio” was the message from sixty year Rotarian Robert “Bob” Schwartz and Lawrence Central Rotary’s Janice Bunker. Bob spoke of Rotary’s long standing commitment to the eradication effort and of his own personal experience. The year Bob went off to college he lost his father to polio. Bob has spent much of his Rotary life working to eradicate the disease.
The impact of the polio outbreak of the last century is a living memory for many adults. Thousands were impacted, public gatherings were canceled, swimming pools were closed and children were kept inside. Janice described the development of an effective vaccine in the 1950’s by Jonas Salk. The vaccine was a game changer. A public-private partnership was developed to educate and fund the massive inoculation effort. Rotary International partnered with the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the Vaccine Alliance. And yet there is still work to do as the remaining cases are in countries with active insurgencies, extreme poverty and rugged and remote geography. The virus is only an airplane ride away as long as there is an active case. Bob and Janet predicted an epic celebration when the virus is eradicated forever. Donations to Rotary Polio Plus can make that happen.