New Polio case in New York underscores Chattanooga Rotary Club’s eradication efforts

Earlier this month, New York’s Governor declared a state of emergency after detecting the polio virus in sewage samples. Our local Chattanooga Rotary Club is playing a hand in the continued eradication efforts.

This year the United States saw its first case of Polio in nearly a decade. After an unvaccinated New Yorker got infected, the state began wastewater surveillance. Polio was found in four metro areas and the city itself. Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency to boost the immunization rate. A mission that John Germ, former International Rotary President said our local Rotary Club not just believes in but helps finance and has for over 40 years. Screenshot 2022 09 19 Ending Polio

“Back in 1979, Rotary provided a $760,000 grant, to help with the eradication of polio. We asked for people to apply for that grant. The grant actually ended up going to the Philippines and it was to provide vaccine to 6 million children in the Philippines, because polio basically affects children five and under. So that project was done in 1979. And it was very successful. So as a result of that, after they were declared polio free, Rotary approached the World Health Organization, World Health Assembly, and asked them about making this a universal project around the world. They turned the rotary down because they said rotary was a non governmental entity, we changed leadership every year, and we did not have a large amount of funds that was readily available,” said Germ. “So, rotary decided to take this project on by ourself. We estimated the cost to eradicate polio would be $120 million at that time. So rotary decided to set a goal of $120 million in order to raise funds from Rotarians in order to eradicate polio. So in 1985, Rotary had a big fundraising drive, and we actually raised $247 million.”

Internationally, club members have provided more than $2 billion which has immunized over 3 billion children in 122 countries.

“Chattanooga has been heavily involved in the fact that every year Chattanooga raises funds by asking Rotarians to make individual contributions to the eradication campaign, we have a polio fund drive that we are raising 50 million a year and Chattanooga is getting somewhere around 20 to 30 thousand of that on an annual basis,” said Germ.

Even though the State of Tennessee notes that over 85% of children have been vaccinated, there has been an approximate drop of nearly 3% in immunizations against the disease since last year.Screenshot 2022 09 19 K Survey Report 2021 2022 Pdf1

“One of the things that, and I know this is extremely controversial subject, is vaccinations. Vaccinations work. We have people that do not want vaccinations, they don’t trust vaccinations, quite honestly, COVID did not help us in that,” said Germ. “During COVID, it became a political issue and not a health issue. We’ve got to make it a health issue. We’ve got to continue to have people vaccinated.”


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