During his recent visit to Mexico, Pope Francis gave encouragement to Rotary International’s global battle to eradicate polio by publicly giving the oral vaccine to a child.
“While we realize that Rotary doesn’t support any religions, rest assured that having a world leader administering the vaccine provides awareness that the disease still exists, that something is being done about it, and that children still need to be vaccinated until we can declare the world polio free,” said Jon Stillman, a member of the Initiative for Pediatric Palliative Care (IPPC).
At the moment, only two countries in the world have endemic cases of polio — Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, both of them are places where terrorists regularly assault and even murder volunteers who administer the oral vaccine to children and the policemen who guard them, claiming the medical care is part of a CIA plot.
Some younger generations may not fully realize the impact of the success against polio because they have not lived in a time in which the contagious disease that causes physical deformities, paralysis, respiratory distress, and even death was widespread and a common fear in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The need to continue vaccination programs globally is paramount because there is no cure for polio, only prevention. Even a small breakout can quickly spread in this era of easy travel between nations.