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History of Rotary Polio Eradiation Efforts

On 29 September 1979, volunteers administered drops of oral polio vaccine to children at a health center in Guadalupe Viejo, Makati, Philippines. The event in metropolitan Manila was arranged and attended by Rotarians and delegates from the Philippine Ministry of Health. James L. Bomar Jr., in a 1993 interview.   

When James L. Bomar Jr., then RI president, put the first drops of vaccine into a child’s mouth, he ceremonially launched the Philippine poliomyelitis immunization effort. Rotary’s first Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Grant project was underway.

Bomar and Enrique M. Garcia, the country’s minister of health, had earlier signed an agreement committing Rotary International and the government of the Philippines to a joint multiyear effort to immunize about 6 million children against polio, at a cost of about $760,000.

In a 1993 interview, Bomar reminisced about the trip. He recalled how the brother of one of the children he had immunized tugged on his pant leg to get his attention and said, “Thank you, thank you, Rotary.”

The project’s success led Rotary to make polio eradication a top priority. Rotary launched PolioPlus in 1985 and was a founding member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Through decades of commitment and work by Rotary and our partners, more than 2.5 billion children have received the oral polio vaccine.

As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we've reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent since our first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979.

Rotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort.

Today, polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it’s crucial to continue working to keep other countries polio-free. If all eradication efforts stopped today, within 10 years, polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year.




Posted by Susan Backofen
May 11, 2021

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