In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus programme, the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication through the mass vaccination of children. 

Rotary's Decades-Long Battle Against Polio Reaches Historic Milestone

The Rotary Foundation helps fund humanitarian activities, from local service projects to global initiatives conducted by Rotary members and their partners. Clubs and districts can apply for grants from the Foundation to invest in projects and provide scholarships. The Foundation leads the charge on worldwide Rotary campaigns such as eradicating polio and promoting peace. Rotarians and friends of Rotary support the Foundation’s work through voluntary contributions.

END POLIO CampaignRotary International has been tirelessly combating polio for over 35 years. Today, their relentless efforts have brought the world closer than ever to eradicating this debilitating disease.

Since its inception as a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary has been instrumental in reducing polio cases by a staggering 99.9%. With a contribution exceeding $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours, Rotary has protected nearly 3 billion children across 122 countries from the grips of polio. Their advocacy efforts have also influenced governments to contribute over $10 billion to the cause.

Despite these monumental strides, polio remains endemic in just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Efforts in these regions are ongoing, with vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance crucial for preventing its resurgence. Additionally, supporting countries vulnerable to vaccine-derived polio viruses remains vital to global eradication efforts.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a collaborative effort involving national governments and key partners such as the World Health Organisation, the CDC, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, remains steadfast in its goal to rid the world of polio.

Locally, the fight against polio holds historical significance. In 1953, Dr. James Macrae and his team at Ham Green Hospital near Bristol worked tirelessly to treat polio cases. Inspired by his son's battle with the disease, Jack Willcocks collaborated with Dr. Macrae to develop the Clevedon Respirator, a groundbreaking positive pressure ventilator. This innovation revolutionised polio treatment, particularly in Bristol, which had experienced significant outbreaks in the 1950s.

Thanks to advancements in polio vaccines, such as the Salk and Sabin vaccines introduced in the 1950s and 1960s, Bristol and many other regions saw a significant decline in polio cases. The introduction of these vaccines marked a turning point in the fight against polio, leading to a drastic reduction in cases and mortality rates.

While progress has been remarkable, the fight against polio is far from over. Rotary International and its partners emphasise the importance of continued vaccination efforts and disease surveillance to ensure that every child remains protected. Failure to maintain these efforts could lead to a resurgence of polio, endangering thousands of children worldwide.

As Rotary celebrates this historic milestone in the battle against polio, they reaffirm their commitment to achieving a polio-free world, one vaccination at a time.