Anyone who has spent time in Rotary knows what a long history our organization has in promoting vaccines – a topic that seems more relevant than at any other time in my lifetime.
Rotary international has been particularly active regarding the distribution of the polio vaccine – something many of our club’s members may have experienced or witnessed just a generation ago.
Today, very few parents of school-age children have ever seen a case of polio – a disease that can cause paralysis and death as it attacks the central nervous system. Polio can strike at any age, but it mainly affects children under age 5.
The good news about polio is that it is entirely vaccine-preventable, and Rotary International has had a hand in mostly-eradicating this once common ailment.
Since 1985, Rotarians have contributed more than $2.1 billion to protect nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries. Today, thanks in part to the efforts of Rotarians around the world, polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the number of cases have dropped from 350,000 in 1988 to less than 250 cases annually today.
Sadly though, experts suggest that if polio eradication efforts stopped today, within 10 years, polio could make such a comeback that it would paralyze as many as 200,000 children annually.
Polio is just one disease that has been virtually eradicated by vaccines, which are widely accepted in the scientific community as not only safe and effective, but lifesaving.
Knowing this makes it all-the-more difficult to understand why vaccinations have become such a polarizing topic in our national discourse. As social media debates about vaccine efficacy and safety, so too does the pandemic.
Around the world, Rotary Clubs like ours are doing their part to spread fact-based immunization information.
A quick scan of rotary projects across the globe revealed:
In Jalandhar, India – a free covid vaccination clinic at the SD College of Women, where 150 people were vaccinated;
In Uganda, the Rotary club of Kampala Munyonyo is supplying residents in slum areas with food, masks and reflector jackets to protect people and provide sustenance from those who have been impacted by lockdowns;
In the Phillipines, the Rotary Club of Tayabas Central has launched a public awareness campaign about COVID-19 vaccines. The campaign, “Don’t Let Covid Tear Your Dreams,” focuses on stopping the spread of COVID so everyone can live better lives.
And in Visnagar Round Town, India, Rotarians are teaming up with a local hospital to host long-term rehabilitation clinics for COVID survivors still dealing with the effects of a disease that can last days or months.
These clubs are continuing the important mission of Rotary International, which includes saving mothers and children, growing local economies and fighting disease.
Closer to home, it is my hope that as Rotarians, we might all do our part to stop the pandemic by spreading science-based information regarding vaccines. We are fortunate to live in a country where COVID-19 vaccines are free and readily available. Information is available from local health care providers or from the Oklahoma Alliance for Healthy Families at www.okhealthyfamily.org.
While it may seem uncomfortable to speak out about vaccines and their lifesaving powers, Rotarians who lend their voices – whether on a public stage or in a one-on-one conversation with a loved one – can save lives. There is no higher calling for mankind; and there’s no better way for a Rotarian to fulfill our shared mission.