The Rotary Club of Hood River, a part of Rotary International, would like to recognize the important work that is being provided by health care workers. Worldwide, these workers are addressing a multitude of diseases such as malaria, polio, AIDS, and COVID-19. Health Care Providers will be honored during the week of April 24-30. This week has been designated as World Immunization Week. Rotary International is a service organization of 1.2 million members, designed to strengthen both local and international communities. There are over 30,000 Rotary Clubs, like the one in Hood River, that can be found in 200 countries world-wide.

The work of Rotary International is a great example of how immunizations can reduce, control and eventually eliminate diseases like Polio. Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a paralyzing and potentially dangerous infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of 5. The virus spreads from person to person, typically through contaminated water; it can then attack the nervous system. Rotary has been working to eradicate polio of more than 30 years. Since 1979, we have vaccinated more than 2.5 billion children. But we haven’t done it alone. Here is a timeline of our partnerships.

1979-early 80’s: Rotary undertakes a series of polio immunization campaigns throughout Southeast Asia and Latin America, beginning with one in 1979 in the Philippines and followed by similar activities in Cambodia, Haiti, Morocco, Paraguay, and Sierra Leone.

1985-1988: Rotary introduces PolioPlus – the first effort to immunize every child in the world with polio vaccine – and aims to raise $120 million. During its 1988 convention in Philadelphia, Rotary announces it has raised $247 million, more than double the target amount. Rotary pushed forward the global resolution to eradicate polio at the 1988 World Health Assembly in Geneva. It also spearheads the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.

2002-2003: Rotary launches the Polio Eradication Fundraising Campaign with a fundraising target of $80 million. The campaign, netting $135 million, eclipses Rotary’s goal. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contributes $1 million when it honors Rotary with its Gates Award for Global Health, its first gift to Rotary’s efforts to end polio.

2007: The Gates Foundation announces its first major grant to polio eradication — a $100 million challenge to Rotary, promising to match funds raised by Rotarians.

2009: Bill Gates pledges an additional $255 million at Rotary’s International Assembly, and Rotary increases its fundraising goal to $200 million.

2011-2012: Bill Gates speaks at the Rotary International Convention in New Orleans and in 2012 Rotary raises $228.7 million, surpassing the original goal of $200 million. In the same year, Jeff Raikes, then CEO of the Gates Foundation, announces an additional $50 million contribution to polio eradication efforts at Rotary’s International Assembly.

2013-2021: An announcement at the Rotary International Convention in Lisbon sets the stage for a new extension of the partnership between Rotary and the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation agrees to match 2-to-1 every dollar committed by Rotary, up to $35 million per year, through 2018. Throughout the campaign, Rotary exceeds its annual fundraising goal. On the heels of the success of the 2-to-1 matching grant, Rotary and the Gates Foundation announce an increase of up to $450 million at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta. Rotary’s new goal is to contribute $50 million per year over three years. With the 2-to-1 match, the Gates Foundation’s contribution will increase to $300 million when Rotary reaches it fundraising target.

Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for more than 35 years. Our goal of ridding the world of this disease is closer than ever. As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we’ve reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent since our first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979. Rotary members have contributed $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort. Today, polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it is crucial to continue working to keep other countries polio-free. If all eradication efforts stopped today, within 10 years, polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year. Thanks to Rotary International and their partners, in 2020 there were only 41 cases of Polio in the world. Polio is on the cusp of becoming the second disease to be eradicated, Smallpox being the only other disease to be eradicated by vaccine.

During this critical time, it is important that we take advantage of the opportunity to receive COVID vaccination. Through effective vaccinations, we can gain control over the COVID pandemic and return to a more normal pre-COVID lifestyle.

The Rotary Club of Hood River supports and encourages all adults to attend one of the many vaccination clinics in the area and receive the COVID vaccination. Together we can gain control over the COVID pandemic but to achieve this goal we need to receive our COVID vaccination. Please do your part by getting vaccinated.