How We Got Started

Historic Moments: How Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio began from Rotary International on Vimeo.On 29 September 1979, Rotarians and delegates of the Philippine Ministry of Health looked on as volunteers administered drops of the lifesaving Sabin polio vaccine to children in the Manila barrio of Guadalupe Viejo.

When James L. Bomar Jr., then RI president, put the first drops of vaccine into a child’s mouth, he ceremonially launched the Philippine poliomyelitis immunization effort, and Rotary’s first Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Grant project was underway. Bomar joined Enrique M. Garcia, the country’s minister of health, in signing the contract committing Rotary International and the government of the Philippines to a joint multi-year effort to immunize about six million children against polio at a cost of about US$760,000.

In a 1993 interview, Bomar reminisced about the trip. He recalled how the brother of one of the children he had immunized tugged on his pant leg to get his attention, and said, “Thank you, thank you, Rotary.”

The success of this project set the stage for Rotary’s top priority to rid the world of polio. As a result of Rotary’s efforts, more than 2.5 billion children have received the oral polio vaccine. Since Rotary launched its PolioPlus campaign in 1985, the number of polio cases worldwide has dropped 99 percent, and the virus remains endemic in only three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Rotary News, 10-Nov-2014