In a message to Rotary leaders, jointly written with K. R. Ravindran, Chair of The Rotary Foundation, Holger said that Rotarians could use their knowledge from the polio vaccinations to help with the mass vaccinations.
“Utilise Rotary’s knowledge of vaccine safety and efficacy, based on our polio eradication experience to conduct vaccination education and communication outreach in your communities,” he urged.
“This will need to be tailored to local contexts in addressing unique cultural and regional needs. Your leadership will be critical in crafting the appropriate messages and strategies.”
Rotary International has been at the forefront of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative for 35 years, and thousands of Rotarians have been involved first hand with mass polio vaccination programmes in India and Africa.
In his note, the German-based President of Rotary International said he had been heartened to witness the work of Rotarians around the globe in their response to the pandemic.
Now, he said, following a meeting of the Rotary International Board and the trustees of The Rotary Foundation who met in joint session, they agreed that Rotary has a role to play. Now was an opportunity for Rotarians to step up to the mark as the vaccination programmes are rolled out.
Holger explained: “Today, the single question we hear time and again as we traverse the virtual world is ‘Are we getting involved with COVID vaccination?’ Considering the success and expertise we have gained in our polio eradication effort, this question is both natural and timely.
“The answer is yes. We will have an important role in the months ahead.
“This does not mean we will deviate in any way from our avowed commitment to eradicating polio, which remains our highest priority and will continue to be our only corporate programme.
“Polio vaccinations and surveillance activities must continue unabated, as must our effort to raise $50 million per year for this effort.
“But, as we know, there is a pandemic sweeping the world.”
In the UK, more than 137,000 people have received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine in one week, according to the Government. This is the largest vaccination programme in British history.
This is the largest vaccination programme in British history.”
The majority of the vaccines have been administered to the over-80s, care home workers and NHS staff through more than 70 sites across the UK.
GP-led centres started vaccinating patients this week in England and the roll out will expand to care homes soon.
Over the coming weeks and months, the rate of vaccinations will increase as more doses become available and the programme continues to expand.
Patients require two doses of the vaccine – 21 days apart – for the vaccine to be fully effective.
And, already, some Rotary clubs have become involved in the vaccination programmes. In Hampshire, Basingstoke Deane Rotary has got involved, helping with the logistics of Basingstoke’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Rotarians have been involved in car parking and marshalling. “Both things that we are good at, and something that will bring a huge benefit to the community,” said the club on its Facebook page.
Basingstoke Deane also published messages of support on their Facebook page for their work with the vaccination programme.
- “It’s so typical of Rotary to be in the forefront of these sort of things.”
- “My husband was in Rotary and would be proud of you all – it’s so well organised.“
- “You’re such nice people – we really appreciate the care you’ve taken of us today – thank you so much.”
Rotary International President Holger Knaack has suggested that clubs should partner at with governments, corporations, and foundations to support Rotary activities at a local level.
One important area which Rotary could join was combatting resistance against the COVID-19 vaccinations – a similar problem faced with polio immunisations in some parts of the world.
“Help us combat the powerful, growing force of vaccine resistance and misinformation,” urged Holger.
“Our advocacy in our communities will be critical — we need to spread the message about the power of vaccines to save lives.
“Working together, we have done so much to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, to care for our communities, and to prepare Rotarians for the work ahead.
“We do this for ourselves and for future generations. We do this as part of our obligation to support our world as it faces the most significant challenge of this generation.”