Many of us can remember when the polio vaccine came to our schools. They lined us up in the auditorium and handed us tiny little cups of clear liquid. And to us, the best thing was that it wasn’t a shot. The grown-ups probably thought the best thing was that they were eradicating polio.
That was the Sabin vaccine. It came out six years after the Salk vaccine (the shot). And between the two, parents could breathe a whole lot easier. They didn’t need to fear the summer – the polio season.
Polio doesn’t scare us in the U.S. anymore. Around the world, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 1988. A couple of years ago, there were 37. Thanks to organizations like the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Rotary International, not to mention thousands of health professionals and volunteers, polio is almost extinct.
The Work That’s Been Done
These organizations have funded, and these professionals and volunteers have worked towards, a massive goal – going to every part of the world where polio exists and vaccinating the people there. We will never be able to total up the lives saved, or the grief spared, or the relief felt by people around the world thanks to those organizations, professionals, and volunteers.
The Two Vaccines
Eradicating polio still involves using those two vaccines.
- The liquid is OPV, oral polio vaccine, and uses living but weakened viruses. There is a very small risk of getting polio from the vaccine itself (760 cases out of 10 billion doses since 2000).
- The shot is called IPV, inactivated polio vaccine, made using the dead virus.
There are three countries where there’s still work to be done: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Of course, there are roadblocks. Extremes of poverty and violence might slow things down. But polio is near extinction.
Eradicating polio has involved risk and sacrifice. So let’s not forget those who have taken those risks and made those sacrifices when polio is finally gone.