We need your help to provide children vaccines as we work to eliminate polio virus

After the past 18 months of battling COVID-19, and feeling its very considerable societal impacts, I know most of us are feeling pandemic fatigue. Nonetheless, I wanted to share some good news with you on a different matter — and ask for your help.

You have probably heard of polio. If you haven't, it only speaks to the success we have had fighting it.

Like COVID-19, polio is caused by a dangerous virus. At the peak of polio transmission, during the 1950s, there were upwards of 500,000 cases of polio per year. Its victims, mostly children, suffered paralysis, physical deformities, disabilities and even death. Some victims needed assistance from an "iron lung" — a chest-compressing contraption they had to lie down in — just to breathe.

But then, Dr. Jonas Salk developed an injectable polio vaccine in 1955, followed by Dr. Albert Sabin's oral vaccine in 1961.

The vaccines worked then and now. And because of a tremendous effort to administer them worldwide over several decades, there have been just two cases of polio from the wild poliovirus so far in 2021 — just two. One in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan.

Rotary International has been a big part of the fight against polio since 1979, when it first conducted vaccination campaigns in the Philippines. Rotary followed up in 1985 by launching a global effort to raise $120 million and immunize all of the world's children against polio.

Inspired by this bold vision, a group of partners established the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Joining Rotary in this effort were the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance have since joined in.

Since that first project in the Philippines, Rotarians have raised more than $2.1 billion to protect nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries against polio. These efforts have leveraged more than $10 billion in investments in this fight from various government entities worldwide.

The result? Worldwide cases of polio have been reduced by 99.9%!

Almost every Rotary club worldwide owns a piece of this achievement, and the Rotary Club of Wilsonville is no exception. At the Wilsonville Rotary Summer Concerts, Rotarians walk around during intermission with our white, red and yellow buckets, asking people to donate to this cause. People have responded over the years with incredible generosity, giving more than $80,000 for the cause over the past 15 years or so!

This year, we'd like your help again. The concerts are as follows, with all shows starting at 5:30 p.m.

• Thursday, July 22 — Johnny Limbo & the Lugnuts, with Christine & Bryan opening

• Thursday, July 29 — Petty Fever, with Rob Rainwater opening

• Thursday, August 5 — Soul Vaccination, with Basso á Deux opening

• Thursday, August 12 — Ben Rice, with Timothy James opening

As part of a challenge grant, each contribution raised by Rotary will be matched two-for-one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That turns a $20 contribution into $60, which is enough to immunize 20 children at an average cost of $3 each.

Your $20 bill would mean that 20 kids will never get polio, but that's just for starters. If enough of us do this, we will end polio forever. We won't just be saving kids now, but 100 years from now.

If all eradication efforts stopped today, there could be 200,000 children with polio 10 years from now. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has a plan in place to track, attack and eradicate all strains of polio. We've eliminated two strains of wild poliovirus and reduced the number of endemic countries to just two. We just need your help to finish off this battle and do away with polio forever.

To donate, please attend the concerts and give, or make a contribution online at

Curt is the president of the Rotary Club of Wilsonville and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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