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World Immunization Week: Vaccines keep communities healthy

Our progress in the fight against polio shows why vaccination is important

Increasing awareness about the power of vaccines and closing immunization gaps could protect millions of people worldwide from vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio, according to the World Health Organization. World Immunization Week, 24-30 April, is an opportunity to focus on that work, and the robust polio eradication infrastructure built by Rotary and our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) provides a model for it.

The GPEI estimates that polio vaccines have saved an estimated 20 million children around the world from paralysis. When Rotary helped launch the GPEI in 1988, the disease paralyzed more than 1,000 people worldwide every day, most of them young children. Since then, Rotary and its partners have reduced the number of polio cases by 99%, and in 2021 there were just six cases of polio caused by the wild poliovirus. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries where the wild poliovirus remains endemic.

The progress against polio is the result of the efforts of countless volunteers and health workers who immunize children in hard-to-reach communities and establish real-time global surveillance and outbreak response mechanisms. The polio eradication infrastructure has been used to fight other infectious diseases and undertake crucial health interventions, including supporting COVID-19 prevention and vaccination efforts.

With our decades of experience in bringing polio to the brink of eradication, Rotary has been able to highlight the power and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Since the pandemic began in 2020, Rotary members have helped health authorities communicate lifesaving information about COVID-19, dispel misinformation, and support fair and equal access to vaccines.

Download Rotary's World Immunization Week toolkit for graphics and information.