By Nelson Maler, D5110 PolioPlus Committee Chair
As a member of D5110 PolioPlus Society I am sharing some exciting updates with you — feel free to share with other members of your club and within your community!
–Another week without a single case of wild polio. The last reported case was on January 1st in Afghanistan, so the 2021 count to date remains at ONE! Last year at this time, there were SIX cases.
–Although there were 10 cases of the circulating vaccine derived polio (cVDPV) reported, 9 of them actually occurred in 2020, with the 10th one occurring on January 17th in Tajikistan, bringing the 2021 Total number of cVDPV cases to only TWO! Last year at this time there were 12 cases.
–In other great news…The past and current heads of WHO’s polio efforts, Michel Zaffran and Aidan O’Leary, verified there are 200 million of doses of the new novel OPV2 (Oral Polio Vaccine Type 2) in storage and rollouts utilizing them will begin next month in West Africa. They will be starting in Liberia and Nigeria, to combat the Circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Type 2 (cVDPV2) that has become a growing issue, especially this last year. If you recall, this new vaccine, which uses an attenuated live virus like the Sabin Oral Vaccine Type 2, has been engineered so as not to be able to mutate back to full strength, which, in rare cases with the Sabin vaccine, can cause cVDPV2 in children, especially in lower immunized communities. Great News indeed!
–I found another great story about a woman leader in Rotary embedded in the February Issue of Rotary Magazine’s story about the elimination of the wild polio virus in Africa. It’s a great story about many Polio Heroes and I urge you to read the whole article, either in the print issue or online at https://www.rotary.org/en/how-we-got-there-who-african-region-certified-free-wild-poliovirus. But allow me to quote this one part of the article about a Woman Leader/Polio Champion in Rotary.
Rotary members used their respected roles in society — and often their personal charisma — to advocate for their governments to become active in polio eradication. Such advocacy work wasn’t glamorous; it involved regular meetings with ministers of health and their staff members to remind them that poliovirus was still there. And sometimes Rotarians had to get creative to convince recalcitrant leaders that it was their responsibility to immunize the citizens of their county.
I am forever the optimistic, especially with the relatively lower number of cases that we are starting the 2021 year with. We still have a long way to go, and that of course, takes money. That is part of our job…we are the advocates and the fundraisers.