World Polio Day



In October we observe World Polio Day (October 24th) and the birthday of Dr. Jonas Salk (October 28th) , who developed the world’s first safe and effective vaccine against Polio, a crippling and sometimes deadly disease. We also celebrate the fact that the world is on the verge of eradicating one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century.

When Rotary launched its push to end polio in the 1980s, the polio virus crippled nearly 1,000 people every day. Polio, which can cause lifelong paralysis, can be prevented with a vaccine that costs only $.60. Today, after international immunization efforts, 5 million people are walking who would otherwise be paralyzed and the world is almost polio-free. Since the 1980s, Rotary and its partners have reduced the incidence of polio by 99-percent.

Despite this tremendous progress, children in some developing countries continue to be infected. That’s why Rotary and its partners must reach every child in some of the most challenging regions of the world with the oral polio vaccine. But the greatest challenge to the polio eradication effort is a funding shortage. Currently, Rotary is working to raise $200 million in response to a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All of the $555 million will support crucial immunization activities in countries where polio still threatens children. To date, Rotarians worldwide have already raised $180 million of the $200 million challenge.


Over the past 26 years, Rotary’s 1.2 million members in 200 countries and regions have contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries. Rotary also reaches out to governments worldwide to obtain vital financial and technical support. Since 1995, donor governments have contributed in excess of $8 billion to polio eradication, due in part to Rotary’s advocacy efforts.


The commitment of Rotary volunteers worldwide demonstrates the extraordinary role civil society can play in improving global health.  Right now, in honor of World Polio Day, Chelan Rotarians are raising awareness and soliciting critically-needed funds to vanquish the disease forever every First Friday (see pictures below).

As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk. The stakes are that high.  Once eradicated, polio will join smallpox as the only two human diseases ever eradicated, fulfilling Rotary’s promise to create a polio-free world. We are “this close” to ending polio once and for all.