Every Child By Two Helping to End Polio Now
Written by Amy Pisani, Every Child By Two (ECBT) Executive Director, who is currently traveling alongside a United Nations delegation to observe the continuing efforts being made by governments and partnerships to stop a polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa and to eradicate polio.
Awareness; the state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness.
National Immunization Awareness Month began on August 1st. For most people in the developed world, immunizations are considered a “right of passage” for young children, a precaution against deadly diseases that once caused families to lose a child, or several children before they reached adulthood. While the vast majority of parents throughout the U.S. and other “economically-stable” countries vaccinate their children, most do so without second thought. While many appreciate that vaccines will keep their children safe from diseases, parents are able to remain blissfully unaware of the catastrophic illnesses that are prevented every day through the miracle of vaccines, simply because we do not witness the actual diseases any longer.
Polio is one such disease that crippled thousands of children right here in the U.S. each year. The U.S. has been polio free since 1979. According to news reports, a 4-month-old girl came down with paralysis on April 30, and then two healthy kids nearby also tested positive for the polio virus. Health officials warn that polio is a virus that spreads silently and for every known case, at least 200 people have the virus and can spread the virus, yet never develop polio. While this case was found in the Horn of Africa, Americans should be no less alarmed, since polio anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.
This week I will be joining with ECBT Spokesperson Actor Amanda Peet and colleagues from the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign to travel to Africa where we will witness the incredible work being done to eradicate polio and measles from the face of the earth. Already global partnerships involving national governments, WHO, Rotary International, UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have led to a 99% reduction in polio cases since 1988 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched. And The Measles Initiative has vaccinated one billion children since 2001, decreasing worldwide deaths by 74%.
CDC Director Tom Frieden. who activated the CDC’s Emergency Operation Center to strengthen partnerships through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 2011, has stated that
“if we fail to get over the finish line, we will need to continue expensive control measures for the indefinite future…More importantly, without eradication, a resurgence in polio could paralyze more than 200,000 children worldwide every year within a decade.”
Our trip will include visits to clinics throughout the region where vaccines are saving lives every day by preventing pneumonia, polio, measles and more. We will meet with dedicated health workers from UNICEF, Rotary International, WHO, CDC, United Nations and local officials and health workers to discuss what Every Child By Two and the Shot@Life campaign can do to encourage US support for international vaccination efforts.
Today more than 10 million people are walking, who would have been paralyzed by polio. We are incredibly close to wiping polio from the face of the earth, in fact we are 99% of the way there…I hope you will join Every Child By Two in doing what we can to help reach the final goal. Stay tuned as I bring you along on my journey.