Acts of Violence Interfere with Polio Eradication
Today I’ll be picking my children up from school and driving them to the local health department where we will receive our seasonal influenza vaccines. Within minutes, I expect we’ll be vaccinated and on our way home. And all the while, I’ll consider myself and my children extremely fortunate to live in America.
Not only will our vaccine help protect us from the dangers of the flu this season, but previous vaccines keep me from worrying about many preventable diseases, such as polio. Unlike many parents in foreign nations, I won’t have to walk for hours, carrying my children in my arms, hoping that by the time I make it to the vaccination clinic there will be someone there to administer the vaccine. And I certainly won’t fear for our safety any time before, during or after the appointment.
And while I’ve been reading personal stories of polio survivors on the Rotary Voices blog this month, in preparation for World Polio Day on October 24th, yesterday’s headlines were a grim reminder of just how much American parents take for granted.
The New York Times reported,
“At least two police officers were killed and a dozen people wounded on Monday when a bomb went off near a health care facility where polio vaccines were being dispensed outside this northwestern Pakistani city.”
While not the bombs of a typical war, these bombs were certainly a violent way to intimidate people and deter vaccination in a country where polio is not yet eradicated. And this is not the first time that polio vaccination workers, and their efforts to eradicate polio have been targeted. The anti-vaccine sentiment in Pakistan is not only being fought with bombs and guns, but with rumors and lies. While extreme religious leaders have suggested that the vaccines are intended to make Muslims infertile, others have accused polio workers of using vaccination campaigns as a cover to spy on behalf of the United States.
Efforts to improve global vaccine access is most often hindered by extreme geographical challenges. To ensure vaccines reach every corner of the world we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the cold chain and ensure delivery of safe and effective vaccines to every child who needs them. But the situation in Pakistan is so different that it deserves our attention. These incidences of violence illustrate how people can use fear and intimidation to interfere with polio eradication and it’s important that we stand behind the various organizations that refuse to succumb to the terrorist tactics we are seeing in Pakistan.
Rotary International’s “End Polio Now” campaign is urging everyone to help in their efforts to eradicate polio by signing a petition, sharing your voice over social media, launching a fundraising campaign, or telling your polio story to local news media. The progress so far is encouraging.
“In 2012, the effort to end polio made historic progress. The year ended with the lowest number of new polio cases in the fewest places ever. There were fewer than 250 reported cases, compared with 350,000 cases in 1985, when Rotary began the fight to end polio. Today, we are “this close” to creating a polio-free world, and we need your help.”
For more information about yesterday’s unfortunate bombing and the way forward for polio eradication, check out a special PBS video by clicking here.
To hear more about Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio, see the video below.