On a Sunny Afternoon - 30 years ago - the 1st drops of Polio vaccine given

James L. Bomar, 1979-80 RI President, administers the first drops of vaccine to a Philippine child 29 September, 1979, launching the Philippine poliomyelitis immunization effort which set the stage for Rotary's efforts to end polio. by Arnold R. Grahl - Rotary International News

On a sunny afternoon in September 1979, Rotarians and delegates of the Philippine Ministry of Health looked on as volunteers administered drops of the lifesaving Sabin polio vaccine to about 100 children in the Manila barrio of Guadalupe Viejo.

The date was 29 September, and when then-RI President James L. Bomar Jr. put the first drops of vaccine into a child's mouth, ceremonially launching the Philippine poliomyelitis immunization effort, Rotary's first Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Grant project was underway.
Hundreds of Philippine Rotarians and community members were on hand as Enrique M. Garcia, the country's minister of health, joined with Bomar to sign the contract committing Rotary International and the government of the Philippines to the joint five-year effort to immunize about six million children against polio in a US$760,000 immunization drive.

The success of the project ultimately led to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, of which Rotary is a spearheading partner, created in 1988 by a unanimous vote of the World Health Assembly. It also set the stage for Rotary's signature campaign to rid the world of polio.

On the 30th anniversary of the first 3-H grant, that campaign is moving forward as strongly as ever. Through the work of Rotary and its partners, the number of polio cases has been slashed by more than 99 percent. When Rotary began its eradication work, polio infected more than 350,000 children annually. In 2008, fewer than 2,000 cases were reported worldwide.

Global health experts have stepped up efforts to end the disease in the four countries where it remains endemic -- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge, which ends 30 June 2012, is seen as crucial to the initiative's success.

The 3-H grant program also continues to evolve under the Future Vision Plan, The Rotary Foundation's blueprint to simplify its grant structure, direct more resources to projects with high-impact and sustainable outcomes, and gain greater public recognition for the Foundation's work. A three-year pilot phase, from 2010 to 2013, will test the model and identify areas for retooling. Districts have already been selected to participate in the pilot.


In a 1993 interview, Bomar reminisced about the trip. He recalled how the brother of one of the children he had immunized tugged on his pant leg to get his attention, and said, “Thank you, thank you, Rotary.”

The success of this project set the stage for Rotary's top priority to rid the world of polio. As a result of Rotary’s efforts, more than two billion children have received the oral polio vaccine. Since Rotary launched its PolioPlus campaign in 1985, the number of polio cases worldwide has dropped 99 percent, and the virus remains endemic in only four countries -- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Polio eradication is within our grasp. But if we don’t eradicate the disease now, the risk of crippling and deadly polio outbreaks will continue to threaten the world’s children. Learn about the challenges to polio eradication and the current strategies Rotary and its polio eradication partners are using. Help Rotary get the job done by contributing to Rotary’s PolioPlus program or volunteering and creating awareness of polio.

Did you know that more than 10 million children will be paralyzed in the next 40 years if the world fails to eradicate polio? Embark on a virtual tour of “Whatever Happened to Polio?” an exhibit of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History that chronicles the history of the disease and efforts to eradicate it. The exhibit is now on permanent display at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.

Four key strategies for stopping poliovirus transmission:
1. Routine immunization - High infant-immunization coverage with four doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) in the first year of life is critical. Routine immunization is essential because it’s the primary way that polio-free countries protect their children from the threat of imported polio.

2. National Immunization Days - For decades, Rotary’s PolioPlus program has been one of the driving forces during National Immunization Days, or NIDs. Rotarians are involved in myriad ways before, during, and after an NID, by providing funds for millions of drops of vaccine, promoting upcoming campaigns in the community, distributing vaccine to local health centers, serving as monitors, working with local officials to reach every child, and participating in surveillance efforts.

3. Surveillance - Rotarians play an important role in working with health workers, pediatricians, and others to find, report, and investigate cases of acute flaccid paralysis in timely manner (ideally within 48 hours of onset). PolioPlus sometimes helps fund containers that preserve the integrity of stool samples during transport to laboratories. The program has also played a leading role in providing equipment for the global poliovirus laboratory.

4. Targeted mop-up campaigns - Rotary’s support of mop-up campaigns is similar to NID volunteering, but on a smaller, often “house-to-house,” scale.

Copyright 2003-04 Rotary eClub NY1 * Updated 2011
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