A child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease. Not exotic diseases, but simple ones. We all know them by name: pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio. This year 1.7 million children will die from diseases that have all but disappeared in the United States, just because they don’t have access to the life-saving immunizations they need to survive.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take polio for instance. The last polio case in the U.S. was in 1979. Today, according to the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, the number of new cases of polio – a disease that once paralyzed more than 1,000 children a day – has dropped 99 percent. The world is now nearly polio-free thanks to a coordinated global vaccination effort. But germs know no borders of course and as long as the disease exists, the risk of spread remains. In fact, Shot@Life says, in 2009, 23 previously polio-free countries were re-infected due to imports of the virus.
Take a look at this video by Rotary International, which has been on the forefront of the battle against polio along with UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
And then look at this one by the Gates Foundation:
On World Polio Day (originally established to mark the birthday of Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine), these organizations celebrate the real progress that’s been made in fighting this debilitating disease — but they also recognize that the road to eradication — to wiping out that final one percent — is a steep climb. As in so many cases with public health, funding is a major roadblock. Only one other disease — small pox — has ever been eradicated. After all, immunization lasts a lifetime, points out the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
As Shot@Life — which, as it calls itself, is a movement to protect children worldwide by providing lifesaving vaccines where they are most needed, says, doesn’t everyone deserve a shot at life?
Photo credit: unicef sverige via flickr