Posted on Sep 30, 2019
World Polio Day is celebrated on October 24. World Polio Day was established by Rotary International to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis. Use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of the oral poliovirus vaccine, developed by Albert Sabin, led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Mark your calendar to tune in for Rotary International’s World Polio Day Online Global Update on Thursday, October 24, streamed on Facebook in multiple time zones and languages around the world. This year’s program will highlight the heroes of polio eradication, with stories from polio-endemic and recently impacted areas. Tune in at:
Polio is a disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is mainly spread by person-to-person contact. Polio can also be spread by drinking water or other drinks or eating raw or undercooked food that are contaminated with the feces of an infected person.

In 1988, the Forty-first World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. It marked the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and later joined by additional key partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. This followed the certification of the eradication of smallpox in 1980, progress during the 1980s towards elimination of the poliovirus in the Americas, and Rotary International’s commitment to raise funds to protect all children from the disease.

Overall, since the GPEI was launched, the number of cases has fallen by over 99%. More than 18 million people are able to walk today, who would otherwise have been paralyzed. An estimated 1.5 million childhood deaths have been prevented through the systematic administration of vitamin A during polio immunization activities.

Currently there remain only two countries with endemic polio, Afghanistan and Pakistan.