Our Superpower Is Saving Lives: How We’re Beating Polio

How vaccines and working together have shaped our world for the better

Vaccines have been with us for over two hundred years and have saved countless lives. One of the most common is the flu vaccine. You’ve probably had it yourself at some time in your life, especially when the months start to get colder.

What to do with the flu?

When given to lots of people, the flu vaccine works to protect the whole population by reducing the total number of flu cases in the country and therefore how many people are exposed to it. Getting your flu vaccination will help protect people you come into contact with, and especially those that are more vulnerable than you, like the elderly.

One disease that has been totally eradicated by vaccination is smallpox. In 1967, 15 million people around the world suffered from this nasty disease, but no one at all has had it since 1977.

Stamping out viruses together!

Another disease that we’re hopeful of eradicating is polio, which mainly affects children, and can cause paralysis and death. Because there’s no cure for polio, it’s vital we prevent children from catching it in the first place. Thanks to a global vaccination effort, polio cases around the world have dropped by 99.9% since 1988. That means an estimated 1.8 million cases of polio have been avoided, and a further 18 million people are able to walk today because they didn’t catch polio as children.

However, polio is still present in two countries across the world. One of those countries is Pakistan. The polio vaccine used in Pakistan is the same vaccine that stopped polio in most of the world, but until every child can be reached with the vaccine, the virus continues to paralyse children.

Meet Yameena in Defenders of Health: The Game

One person fighting to change that is Yameena. She’s a doctor in Pakistan who visits remote villages, going door-to-door to explain to parents why the vaccine is important and then giving it to children. Find out more about Yameena and her polio vaccine by playing our game, Defenders of Health, with your children.

What can we do to stop Polio?

Yameena is getting plenty of help from people here in the UK. Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland was at the forefront of bringing polio to the attention of governments worldwide. Over the past 35 years, Rotary members have contributed over US$2.1 billion and an untold number of volunteer hours to the fight against polio. It’s part of the global End Polio Now initiative and continues to raise money locally through its Purple4Polio campaign. They’re also behind World Polio Day, which falls on Saturday 24th October this year. You can get involved here.

It’s a positive story, and it’s clear that the total eradication of polio is achievable. The entire African continent was certified wild polio-free this past year, after years of hard work vaccinating millions of children. The last thing anyone wants is to see a resurgence of this most devastating of childhood diseases. That’s why we need to educate people about the importance of the vaccine, and make sure every country has the health system it needs to deliver an effective vaccination programme.