Once the country agreed to conduct a NID it worked with the global organization of partnerships, the Inter Agencies Commission, to coordinate when and how it should be held and how many doses of vaccine would be necessary. Before the NIDs, Rotary and UNICEF led social mobilization actions, spreading the word, by working with the governments, Radio and Television stations and religious and community leaders. Each mother, each child and each teacher would receive information that on a certain day all children under the age of five should be brought to the vaccination site. In Turkey there were even pamphlets thrown out of helicopters. Finally the door-to-door replaced the concentrations at strategic places for vaccination.
Wars were interrupted – like in the Congo Democratic Republic and in Sri Lanka -, both parts voluntarily agreeing in laying down arms in the so called Quiet Days, so that the children could be vaccinated against polio.
But many Rotarian volunteers risked their lives to vaccinate the children. One of those examples is Dr Bill Sprague, from Grand Rapids, in Michigan. He travelled by some dangerous areas of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Somalia and Sudan to coordinate the PolioPlus efforts. The Rotarians in Angola, like Walter Brock and Sylvia Nagy, and in Peru, courageously faced danger to distribute the precious vaccine.
During a NID in Peru the Sendero Luminoso guerrilla temporarily lowered arms so that the Rotarians could work in 2300 vaccination sites. There were cooked more than 28000 lunches for the health workers and volunteers and used more than 800 vehicles to transport the vaccine throughout the country.
The second campaign tool is the epidemiological surveillance carried out by the national health authorities, often with the support of the WHO and the CDC. On two or sometimes three or more occasions per year, each child with less than five years should receive two drops of oral vaccine. From the roots to the top level of the country, the WHO and the CDC, and in many cases with Rotary, each outbreak of polio was monitored. If there was more than one suspicious case – and often there were financial rewards to get the new polio cases to be reported - were collected two stool samples within 48 hours (the called opportune samples) and sent to the nearest certified laboratory, scrupulously packed. This allowed the partners to assess exactly how the program was working and rapidly redirect specific resources to a certain area in case of a sudden polio outbreak. Only when a country has no new cases for more than three consecutive years can be certified as polio free.
To develop a worldwide net of certified laboratories was essential to the surveillance and success of PolioPlus. Rotary provided key financings for those laboratories to become a reality.
The final phase of the program, called mopping-up, had as main target the children who didn’t go to the NIDs or could cover an entire area where surveillance had indicated a new case of polio.
(To be continued in J)
October 09 in World Polio Day
PHOTOS: The First Lady Maria José Ritta, (here in a Gala reception organized by Henrique Pinto), participated in the Portuguese TV Polio Campaign, which I promoted (from left to right Mercedes Stoffel, Ana Cristina Pires, responsible for Culture at the occasion, Professor Carlos André, regional Governor, The First Lady, Dr. Branquinho, Tourism Director, Professor Dr. Henrique Pinto, Dr. Moreira de Figuueiredo and Architect Roda; United Nations Flag