Mike McGovern, the chairman of Rotary International’s PolioPlus committee, will be featuring on a special webinar organised by the End Polio Now campaign in Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland.
Mike will be speaking at the first of a series of regular polio webinars on Wednesday, May 27th at 7pm.
The presentation will be particularly relevant as the polio programme has been halted in its tracks by COVID-19.
However, the polio infrastructure which Rotary has helped build in virtually eradicating polio – including its tools, workforce, and extensive surveillance networks – is now being used to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Mike will be speaking at the first of a series of regular polio webinars on Wednesday, May 27th at 7pm.”
According to a recent report by Rotary’s PolioPlus communications team: “This infrastructure is supporting preparedness and response activities in many countries, including Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This truly represents the ‘plus’ in PolioPlus.
“Building on decades of experience stopping polio outbreaks, Rotary and our partners have a critical role to play in protecting communities from this unprecedented pandemic, just as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative did in the past to respond to outbreaks of Ebola, yellow fever, and Avian flu.”
In Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, polio staff are tracing contacts and testing for COVID-19, combatting misinformation and sensitising health professionals on the disease. In these countries, the teams are using some of the polio infrastructure already in existence such as hotlines and emergency operations centres, as well as physical assets like vehicles and computers.
In Pakistan, polio staff are helping efforts to strengthen surveillance and raise awareness about COVID-19 across the country.
The team has trained hundreds of surveillance officers while also supporting the development of a new data system which is fully integrated with the system used for polio.
Across the country, polio eradication logistics experts are helping with the distribution of personal protective equipment for the COVID-19 response.
Rotarians are also providing face masks, personal protection kits to medical staff, repairing ventilators, assisting governments in setting up and monitoring quarantines sites, and utilizing vaccine carriers to transport COVID-19 specimens to laboratories.
We recognize the COVID-19 emergency will affect some aspects of the polio eradication program and ask @Rotary members to continue to sustain our commitment to #endpolio. Learn why: https://t.co/5LQYIClhvm pic.twitter.com/gU1k32AFNy
— EndPolioNow (@EndPolioNow) March 30, 2020
The report adds: “Rotary’s Polio Resource Centers are helping the fight against COVID-19 by sensitising religious leaders and community influencers, producing posters with information on hygiene and physical distancing, and providing food rations to families in need.”
In Nigeria, in Ogun and Lagos states, over 50 polio programme medical staff are conducting contact tracing, disease detection and data collection and analysis to stem the spread of COVID-19.
World Health Organization field offices used for polio eradication coordination across Nigeria are now supporting COVID-19 teams, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is lending phones, vehicles and administrative support to the response.
Rotary’s Polio Resource Centers are helping the fight against COVID-19 by sensitising religious leaders and community influencers, producing posters with information on hygiene and physical distancing, and providing food rations to families in need.”
Nigeria remains on track to be officially declared polio-free later this summer, after almost four years of a case of the wild polio virus being reported in the country. This announcement will formally declare Africa as polio-free.
In Afghanistan, more than 3,750 community volunteers who typically support polio surveillance in the country are now promoting hand-washing and positive hygiene practices in communities to reduce transmission and exposure to COVID-19.
The report stresses that every precaution needs to be taken to ensure that polio eradication activities do not contribute to COVID-19 transmission.
Millions of children will emerge after #COVID19 vulnerable to #polio & other diseases that are preventable with safe, effective vaccines. Thanks to renewed support from @CanadaDev, we'll be ready to protect them, by ensuring access to routine immunization. #EndPolio https://t.co/M0X6OIO60M
— EndPolioNow (@EndPolioNow) May 12, 2020
“For that reason, to observe global guidance related to physical distancing and hygiene practices, all countries have been advised to pause polio immunisation campaigns during the COVID-19 outbreak response.
“While responding to COVID-19, Rotary and our partners will work to continue protecting children to avoid a resurgence of polio and will maintain essential polio eradication work, including surveillance.
“In fact, polio surveillance workers are now searching for both polio and COVID-19 symptoms – and are increasing the chances of early detection.
“We will continue working to strengthen immunization in certain at-risk areas and will maintain our vaccine supply so that campaign can begin without delay, as soon as it is safe.”
Rotarians are being urged to maintain their support PolioPlus by sustaining the commitment to polio eradication by reaching the fund-raising goal of $50 million this year.
While responding to COVID-19, Rotary and our partners will work to continue protecting children to avoid a resurgence of polio and will maintain essential polio eradication work, including surveillance.”
The report adds: “Rotarians can stay focused on our work eradicating polio even as we face a pandemic of a virus for which there is not yet a vaccine, a situation similar to what the world faced with the poliovirus not so long ago.
“As the world responds to COVID-19, there is a significant risk that many children will miss out on life-saving vaccines that prevent dangerous diseases, including polio.
“While confronting the new challenges of today, the most important thing that Rotary members can do to continue the fight to end polio is to sustain our commitment to polio eradication and reach our fundraising goal of $50 million dollars this year.
Polio surveillance workers are now searching for both polio and COVID-19 symptoms, increasing the chances of early detection.”
“Continued contributions to PolioPlus will ensure that polio eradication activities that are ongoing — such as surveillance and vaccine supply – continue, and that we come out of this crisis strong and tackle the remaining barriers to a polio-free world.
“We know that many members are seeking to support COVID-19 response.
“We hope Rotarians will see that polio and COVID-19 are dual priorities, and urge Rotarians to consider supporting both PolioPlus and COVID-19 efforts to the extent that members are able to during this difficult time.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, we recognise that attention to polio eradication will be diverted, but this makes it all the more vital for Rotarians to remain strongly committed to fighting and not let our progress be eroded.”
You can register now to book your place for the Mike McGovern webinar on May 27th by logging onto: https://bit.ly/2Wqao8H