Polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the United States in the 1950s. Before polio vaccines, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year. Following the introduction of vaccines, specifically trivalent inactivated poliovirus (IPV) in 1955 and trivalent oral vaccines (OPV) in 1963, cases in the U.S. fell dramatically. Thanks to a successful vaccination program, the United States has been polio free since 1979.
However, poliovirus is still a threat in some countries. The Rotary has been working on the eradication of polio for more than 30 years. The goal is to get rid of this disease all around the world. We are now closer than ever.
As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we have reduced polio cases by 99.9% since our first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979. We have helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. So far, the Rotary has contributed more than $ 1.8 billion toward eradicating the disease worldwide.
As of today, polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. It is very important that we continue working to keep other countries polio-free. Did you know if all eradication efforts stopped today, with in 10 years, polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year? Polio is a paralyzing and potentially deadly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of 5. The virus is spread from person to person, usually through contaminated water. It can then attack the nervous system.
If you look at the numbers, you will see that the average cost to fully protect a child against polio is $3. There were 430 million children in total vaccinated in 39 countries in 2017. The cost to conduct polio surveillance worldwide is $100 million.