COCHRANE— While COVID-19 has taken centre stage with regards to infectious diseases, the fight to combat other transmittable illnesses rages on behind the scenes.
The Rotary Club of Cochrane has been busy fundraising to fight against the deadly Polio disease for many years, and is getting ready to wrap up their most recent fundraising efforts on Saturday (Oct. 24), which also happens to be World Polio Day.
Members of the Cochrane Rotary Club have been cycling to raise awareness and collecting donations that will go towards vaccinating vulnerable populations in Pakistan and Afghanistan where the disease remains endemic.
“I know everybody is focused on COVID at the moment, which is absolutely paramount, but I think sometimes we have to remember that there are other things that are ongoing,” said Sue Carpenter-Parnell, a member of the Rotary Club of Cochrane.
A founding member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary Club International has been working to vaccinate against poliovirus for 35 years.
The disease most commonly affects children under five, and is typically transmitted through contaminated water.
“It was decided that this was an issue that needed to be addressed because so many children were dying or being disabled by polio,” Carpenter-Parnell said. “And yet it’s such an easy thing to resolve because we have the vaccine. I mean they don’t even need to have a shot, its just drops in the mouth.”
Although great strides are being made, the disease was only recently eradicated in Africa. Carpenter-Parnell said one of the problems was distrust in remote spaces.
“When people go out into these rural areas and they’re trying to sort of administer these vaccines. People are very sceptical. You’ve got people who going in and they want to give something to your children— As you can imagine.”
However, the efforts continue and the disease is becoming less and less common.
“We’re very close now, if we could just eradicate it in Pakistan and Afghanistan it would be wonderful,” she said.
On Saturday (Oct. 24), the Rotary Club of Cochrane will be having a small social gathering and taking a final tally of funds raised and distance travelled to mark World Polio Day.
Rotarians, through various initiatives, are responsible for a 99.9 per cent reduction in polio cases, more than 3 billion vaccinations administered in 122 countries and more than $2.1 billion in donations.