I am Dr. John Sever, vice chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Program and I’ve dedicated my life to eradicating polio. This year there have been just 6 cases of polio due to the wild polio virus - we are on the verge of making polio history....
On June 12, Rotary and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced an extension and increase of their financial commitment in an effort to eradicate polio worldwide once and for all. Additionally, 16 governments and several organizations have just pledged $1.2B to eradicate polio. Rotary has already contributed over 1.6 billion U.S. dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer time to the eradication of polio. When we succeed in eradicating polio, it would become only the second disease to be eradicated by vaccines, the other being smallpox.
Personally, I have known Dr. Salk, creator of the inactivated polio vaccine, and Dr. Sabin, creator of the oral polio vaccine through my work at the National Institutes of Health. In 1979 the last case of endemic polio was reported in the U.S. I, along with Rotary International president, Clem Renouf, brought to Rotary the idea to make it our chief goal to eradicate polio worldwide. For the last 11 years, I have been carrying on the visions of Drs. Salk and Sabin as the vice-chairman of Rotary International’s PolioPlus program, which helps oversee Rotary’s polio vaccination efforts worldwide.
In 1916, polio was an epidemic in the United States with over 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. Following the availability of Dr. Salk’s inactivated vaccine in 1955 and Dr. Sabin’s oral polio vaccine in 1962, polio began to decline in developed countries where they were used. That decline began to accelerate as groups such as Rotary International began to champion the issue in the early 1980s.
Today, polio is nearly eradicated globally, as we’ve seen a 99.9% reduction – from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 6 reported cases so far in 2017. Polio is virtually eradicated, but there is still so much more to do. If we don’t continue to vaccinate, we could see 200,000 new cases every year – giving polio an unprecedented resurgence.
EDIT: Thanks very much for all of your questions today. I enjoyed the conversation. For more information, please visit:https://www.endpolio.org/