The Polio Plus Program
When Rotary launched
PolioPlus in 1985, the “plus” signalled the belief that the polio eradication
effort would increase immunizations against five other diseases prevalent in
children: measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus. As
time went on, the list of benefits grew.
Polio immunization campaigns created an avenue for other lifesaving health
interventions, such as the distribution of vitamin A supplements. New equipment
for transporting and storing vaccines made it easier to combat infectious
diseases in developing areas.
The enormous network of laboratories and health clinics charged with
identifying new cases of polio began to monitor the spread of other viruses as
well. And the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which Rotary helped create,
rose to international prominence as a model for public-private partnerships to
address world health issues.
The “plus” in PolioPlus means that Rotarians are doing more than stopping the
spread of polio in the last four countries in which it is endemic; they also are
building a legacy of infrastructure and partnerships that will support the fight
against infectious disease long after polio is gone.
The cold chain
Transporting vaccines to developing areas is no easy
task. From the time they leave the manufacturer until they reach recipients,
vaccines must be kept between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (though some may be frozen
at -15 to -25 degrees). Variances of even a few degrees could spoil an entire
shipment, leaving children without the protection they need.
The “cold chain” created to distribute polio vaccine has been used to
transport other vaccines, such as measles, tetanus, and diphtheria. An estimated
one-third of the cold chain capacity in sub-Saharan Africa was implemented to
support polio eradication.
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