One of the key stumbling blocks in the way of our push towards eradicating polio worldwide is vaccine hesitancy.  “Vaccine hesitancy”, states the World Health Organization (WHO) in its recent list of the top ten threats to global health, is “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines.”

Vaccine hesitancy threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases, and is hampering our efforts to eradicate polio. https://www.who.int/emergencies/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019

 

Vaccine hesitancy threatens people worldwide, not only in the last two strongholds of polio (Afghanistan and Pakistan), but in the recent outbreak of Measles in southern Washington State, which has been traced to the reluctance or outright refusal to vaccinate vulnerable populations. 

 

A decent overview of the adverse impacts of vaccine hesitancy can be found here: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/who-vaccine-hesitancy-top-health-threat/    The article points to the World Health Organization’s 2017 finding that an estimated 110,000 deaths worldwide are attributable to measles, a disease now making a comeback, not only in the US but in Europe as well, due to the reluctance of people to be vaccinated. 

 

In Pakistan, Rotary is part of a consortium seeking innovative ways to counter vaccine hesitancy propaganda being spread on social media: http://polioeradication.org/news-post/global-crowdsourcing-initiative-with-a-cash-prize-to-support-polio-eradication-efforts-in-pakistan/ 

 

But, like many things, it takes people on the ground to make progress. And this is part of what we fund as Rotarians - Global Polio Eradication Initiative teams on the ground - people that are making a difference, one family, and one child, at a time.  Here is a good article on how one polio team in Afghanistan is overcoming religious-based vaccine hesitancy: http://polioeradication.org/news-post/turning-the-tide/

 

Rotarians know that once polio is eradicated in an area, it takes three more years of one-the-ground work before the area can be certified polio-free. And then, additional work is required to ensure the area remains so. The dedication of the polio teams is what makes eradication possible. You can look over the shoulder of a team in Somaliland, here: http://polioeradication.org/news-post/on-the-road-with-somalilands-dedicated-polio-vaccinators/ 

 

Our support, as Rotarians, of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is critical to the success we’ve enjoyed so far, but we’re not done yet. We’re “this close”, and must continue our efforts to eradicate polio. 

 

Find out more about Rotary’s policy, support and polio eradication activities here: https://www.endpolio.org/   

 

Interested in finding out even more? Check out the World Health Organization (WHO, one of the organizations allied with Rotary in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, here: https://www.who.int/ , and check out the Global Polio Eradication Initiative itself, here: http://polioeradication.org/ 


 

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