A new parent’s story: Why vaccines matter

Abe looks up at the camera while crawling on the floor
Abe enjoying floor time.

By Stephanie Graff

As the mother of a beautiful, happy, baby boy, I’ve been only too happy to share so many “firsts” with my husband and son.

From bath time to tummy time to bedtime stories, we recognize the importance of every milestone moment and experience, including those that are less than enjoyable for baby Abe – including routine immunization.

Perhaps because I work at Rotary International, I am particularly attuned to the important role immunization plays in protecting against vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio. This is why my husband and I have been laser-focused on scheduling Abe for his routine immunization appointments (of which polio immunization is an essential component). Sticking to Illinois’ routine immunization schedule is critical to protect Abe’s health and necessary to ensure he can attend daycare.

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How Rotary members are fighting against polio

Together we can End Polio
Mark and Dave Anderson will be riding the trains in Sydney 24 October to raise awareness and funds for End Polio Now.

Rotary members have been at the center of the worldwide effort to eradicate polio for more than three decades. Rotary launched PolioPlus in 1985 and helped found the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. At that time, wild poliovirus paralyzed hundreds of children every day, with an estimated 350,000 polio cases across more than 125 countries in one year. Since then, cases have plummeted more than 99.9%, sparing more than 20 million people from paralysis.

But as recent polio detections have revealed, polio remains a threat everywhere as long as it exists anywhere. In the days and weeks leading up to World Polio Day, 24 October, Rotary members around the world are holding events to raise awareness of the need to End Polio Now. Below are a few of those efforts.

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A polio survivor’s plea: Don’t let this happen to you

Div Louw
Polio survivor Div Louw, of the Rotary Club of Benoni, South Africa, trains for an upcoming para sport triathlon event.

By Div Louw, Rotary Club of Benoni, South Africa

I was a typical, energetic four-year old in South Africa, running around our house with visions of my hero, long distance runner Jan Barnard, in my head when I felt something wrong. I ran inside and told my mother, “I have a dripping tap in my chest.” This was my way of describing what I felt, my heart skipping beats now and again. My mom, Christine, pressed an ear to my chest and called our general practitioner.

That would be the last day I would run imaginary races with Barnard. I had contracted spino-bulbar polio, which destroys neurons in the brainstem causing respiratory or cardiac failure. I was given less than a 2% chance of survival. This was in 1955, during a polio epidemic in South Africa, months before the Salk Vaccine was declared safe and effective.

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“I Found a Purpose in My Pain:” Nigerian Oncologist Changes Lives

Line for screening
People line up for cervical cancer screening and testing during a health day in Ikeja, Nigeria, organized by the Rotary Action Group for Family Health & AIDS prevention.
Dr. Omolola Salako
Dr. Omolola Salako

The pandemic did not just slow down the delivery of essential health services to vulnerable populations. In many cases, it completely cut it off. On 23-24 June, health days were organized at 60 sites in Nigeria. At two sites at Ikeja, Dr. Omolola Salako, a clinical oncologist, and her team witnessed hundreds of women queueing up to get their cervical cancer screening and tests done. Salako is founder of three organizations – Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre, Oncopadi Technologies and Pearl Oncology Clinic, and has spent over 16 years providing quality care and education to cancer patients in Nigeria. She recently shared her experience with Sneha Saloni, a communications specialist with the Rotary Action Group for Family Health & AIDS prevention.

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How to create a PolioPlus Society in your district

Mollie
Mollie, the unofficial mascot of the PolioPlus Society in Rotary Zones 26 and 27.

Editor’s Note: Bob Rogers of the Rotary Club of Sebastopol, California, USA, and Greg Owen, Rotary Club of Long Beach, California, USA, both End Polio Now coordinators, came together to form a PolioPlus Society in their zones. The Society, which encourages automatic annual giving to Rotary’s PolioPlus fund, has been praised by senior Rotary Leaders as a model for others to follow. Rotary Voices talked to Rogers and Owen about the origins of the idea.

Q: How did you get the idea for a PolioPlus Society in your zones?

Bob Rogers: It was back in 2018 or 2019 and I was beginning my role as District 5130’s PolioPlus committee chair. Cort Vaughn, our End Polio Now coordinator, told me how District 5110 had formed a society several years earlier as a way to increase sustainable giving to the PolioPlus Fund. The original concept has been credited to Harriett Schloer of the Rotary Club of Bend High Desert in Oregon and her district governor, Dell Gray. Vaughn noted it had proved very successful and had been copied by other districts.

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