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Speech to Polio NZ Inc. Wednesday 15 October 2014

Speech to Polio NZ Inc. Wednesday 15 October 2014

It is significant that Polio NZ Inc have chosen to celebrate the 25th Jubilee in October for two reasons.

Firstly, World Polio Day is marked each year in October, this year being held on the 24th of October and secondly, 2014 is the year marking the 100th birthday of Jonas Salk, who invented the Inactivated Polio Vaccine.

Jonas Salk was born on 28th October 1914 in New York City and attending New York University School of Medicine, Salk stood out from his peers, not just because of his academic prowess, but because he went into medical research instead of becoming a practicing physician.

The Salk vaccine was introduced in 1957.

Rotary International made a commitment to immunise the world’s children against polio in 1985 and became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative three years later.

The other partners are the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.

Thanks to Rotary and its partners, the number of polio cases has been slashed by more than 99 percent.

The polio cases represented by the final 1 percent are the most difficult and expensive to prevent for a variety of reasons, including geographical isolation, worker fatigue, armed conflict, and cultural barriers.

By 2018 a staggering US$15.5 billion will have been spent on the exercise, but there is no price too great to eliminate human suffering and eliminate what is still one of humanity’s greatest scourges of all time.

I first became involved with Rotary New Zealand’s part in the Polio Eradication Program, the PolioPlus campaign attending the first meeting set up in Auckland in 1985. Rotary New Zealand was keen that individual Rotarians would financially support the programme and to provide for tax deductibility for such donations, a separate Rotary Trust was established.

Rotary’s primary responsibilities were to include fundraising, advocacy, and volunteer recruitment.

When Rotary launched PolioPlus in 1985, the “plus” signalled the belief that the polio eradication effort would increase immunisations against five other diseases prevalent in children being:

measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus.

As time went on, the list of benefits grew. Polio immunisation campaigns created an avenue for other lifesaving health interventions, such as the distribution of vitamin A supplements.

New equipment for transporting and storing vaccines made it easier to combat infectious diseases in developing areas.

The enormous network of laboratories and health clinics charged with identifying new cases of polio began to monitor the spread of other viruses as well.

And the global polio eradication initiative rose to international prominence as a model for public-private partnerships to address world health issues.

The “plus” in PolioPlus means that Rotarians are doing more than stopping the spread of polio in the last three countries in which it is endemic; they also are building a legacy of infrastructure and partnerships that will support the fight against infectious disease long after polio is gone.

To date, Rotary has contributed nearly $800 million to the eradication effort, an amount that will grow to more than $1.2 billion by the time the world is certified polio-free.

With nearly 33,000 clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas, Rotary reaches out to national governments worldwide to generate crucial financial and technical support for polio eradication.

Since 1995, the advocacy efforts of Rotary and its partners have helped raise more than $3 billion in vital funding from donor governments.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is on track to achieve a polio-free world by 2018 and deliver broader benefits thanks to donors’ six-year investment in 2012.

Using innovative approaches and with the help of new partners, we are progressing along a multi-year plan to stop transmission, improve immunisation rates and make a lasting impact on child mortality and other global health challenges.

However, the world’s investment in achieving a polio-free world is at risk because of conditions that are obstructing parents living in the final reservoirs where polio has never been stopped from accessing the polio vaccine for their children.

Intensified efforts and innovative approaches are continuing to ensure that children can receive the polio vaccine; meanwhile additional measures are being pursued to help ensure countries at highest risk of re-infection remain polio-free and that there are no major delays to ending global transmission.

Delivering a polio-free world by 2018 and realizing the broader benefits of eradication requires critical action.

Where we are reaching children with the polio vaccine, improvements in campaign quality are making a difference. We’re also seeing progress at a global level. However, in the few reservoirs where children cannot receive vaccinations, cases are increasing.

Afghanistan reduced transmission to very low-levels with only 14 cases last year.

13 out of 14 cases were directly linked to cross-border transmission from Pakistan, and only one case was reported in the traditionally endemic Southern Region.

In Pakistan, the majority of regions where vaccinators can reach children do not have active polio transmission, but Pakistan is currently a major threat to reaching our 2018 goal.

Pakistan has detected a record number of polio cases already this year. Sadly 202 recorded from January to 3 October as militants target vaccination teams and accuse doctors of being spies and sterilising boys. This number of polio cases is now an all-time high for Pakistan. The previous modern record was 199 in 2001. It is reported that 60 polio workers or police escorting polio teams have been killed in Pakistan since 2012. There are 34million children in Pakistan, so the task is challenging.

Compared to the same point in previous years, Nigeria’s case count is at an all-time low and campaigns have achieved historic highs of vaccination coverage.

For the first time ever, more than 75% of children in all eight northern Nigerian states have received three or more oral polio vaccine doses.

In March 2014, Nigeria had its most successful campaign yet, with 86% of surveyed Local Government Areas in high-risk states achieving close to plus or minus 80% coverage.

With India and the rest of the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia region officially certified polio-free, 80% of the world’s population now lives in polio-free regions.

Irrespective of the situation in Pakistan, efforts are on track to launch the most ambitious vaccine introduction in history and to strengthen routine immunization systems. Both are critical to ending polio by 2018.

As recommended by the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization and endorsed by the World Health Assembly, 126 countries will introduce at least one dose of inactivated polio vaccine by the end of 2015.

All countries using only oral polio vaccine have committed to introduce at least one dose of inactivated polio vaccine by end 2015. To date, 3 countries have submitted applications for 2014 and 17 countries for 2015, and planning continues to move quickly for the remaining countries.

A new low price for inactivated polio vaccine makes sufficient quantities of affordable vaccine available for country introductions, and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization is supporting the introduction in 73 of the world’s poorest countries.

The three remaining endemic countries are planning to introduce inactivated polio vaccine to boost immunity in communities where access is a challenge.

The program is simultaneously strengthening routine immunization and helping to deliver other critical health interventions.

Beginning next year, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will dedicate 50% of personnel time to strengthening routine immunization in 10 high-risk countries.

Polio field workers in Chad are dedicating as much as 60% of their time to improving immunization systems. By September 2013, Chad had reached 35% more children with childhood vaccines compared to the same point in 2011.

In Bihar, India, polio eradication efforts helped boost routine immunization coverage from less than 20 percent in 2005 to nearly 70 percent in 2010.

In Afghanistan, large-scale surveys indicate vaccine coverage rose from 40% to 62% between 2010 and 2013, at a time when Afghanistan had an extremely intense immunisation schedule with 10 or more campaigns conducted per year in highest risk areas.

I said earlier that I became involved in the PolioPlus programme in 1985. Since that time and according to the latest figures, New Zealand Rotarians and their supporters have contributed NZ$5,048,820.

The amount contributed by the government of New Zealand stands at NZ$5,106,500, their last contribution being made in June 2010.

Whilst we have lobbied the government consistently since June 2010, all our face to face meetings have been in vain and response to written submissions latterly can only be described at best as dismissive by Foreign Minister McCully.

In contrast to New Zealand at this year’s Rotary International Convention held in Sydney, all 18,200 Rotary members from around the world including some 800 from New Zealand attending the opening ceremony, were greeted by news that the Australian government are to commit Aust$100 million over five years.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and New South Wales Premier Mike Baird addressed the convention and assured Rotary members of Australia's commitment to this worldwide initiative.

This takes Australia’s contribution to Aust $167 million.

On a per capita comparison basis with Australia, the sum received from the New Zealand Government over the 29 year period is frankly just not good enough.

Minister McCully’s disappointing lack of response comes when it is understood from his officials that the New Zealand Overseas Development Assistance account to 30 June 2014 ended in surplus.

One of Rotary’s current Fundraising events is “The World’s Greatest Meal”. Rotary Clubs from around the world are setting aside a meeting or special event to raise money for the “End Polio Account” before or on World Polio Day.

The initial target was US$1,000,000 and that figure has already been achieved with the latest figures showing US$23,000 over that initial figure. To date there have been 675 events registered in 51 countries with more than 23,700 participants worldwide.

It has been a pleasure to address you this evening. I hope you have found the statistics of interest. I would ask that Polio NZ Inc. support Rotary New Zealand in is quest to obtain a more positive response from the New Zealand Government.

Every opportunity you have, please lobby you local member of parliament.

I am sure you are keen to make your organisation redundant at some time in the future as Polio will be consigned to history.


PDG Stuart J Batty QSM,JP
PolioPlus National Advocacy Advisor for New Zealand
RNZWCS Limited (Rotary New Zealand)


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