PDG Randy Lickey talks about Polio Plus Month

Posted By Brad Walker

Observing that October is Polio Plus Month and Oct. 24 is Polio Plus Day,  Randy Lickey, Polio Plus chair for D7710, updated members about this project which he described as the “largest public/private health initiative in history.” Launched in 1985, Polio Plus was part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) which tackled polio in the 125 countries where the wild virus was active.  

Today, Randy said, only two countries–Afghanistan and Pakistan–still show signs of the active wild virus, although thirty-six countries remain at risk because of circulating vaccine-derived cases.  “We are making progress,” he said, noting that GPEI  is “very close” to rolling out a low-risk, novel vaccine. 

In 2019, Randy accompanied a Polio Plus team to Afghanistan and Pakistan to get a ground-level view of conditions.  Several good strategies are underway, he said:  

  • Providing community-based door-to-door immunizations
  • Using local “global mobilizers” who accompany workers and help defuse suspicion or resistance
  • Using Permanent Transit Posts (PTP) where all railways or buses stop as immunization stations. Health workers stationed at PTPs can board to check children and give immunizations when needed. 
  • Installing water filtration plants to deter polio’s spread through unsanitary conditions.  Each plant can serve 100,000 people. 

In 2020, all immunization campaigns shut down until July. They have resumed, although, with many additional and expensive precautions, Randy said.  Thus, these increased costs have put “in turmoil” the 2021 Polio Plus budget, now estimated at $1.27 billion.  Currently, project funding sources total only $850 million; Rotary International has pledged $150 million which the Gates Foundation will match 2:1.  

To help raise that sum, Rotary is asking all Rotarians to donate at least $50 to Polio Plus, in addition to the usual annual fund contributions.  He further encouraged members to take the “Polio Plus Society Pledge”: $100 annually until polio is defeated! 

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