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‘We need to finish’: Walk to End Polio key feature of international Rotary conference

Walk departs from Victoria’s Hotel Grand Pacific Saturday morning
Rotary district governor Lorna Curtis. (Courtesy Lorna Curtis)

Greater Victoria residents are invited to join Rotarians this weekend for the Walk to End Polio.

“So many of us, especially in Victoria with our age group, will remember polio and the impact it had on peoples’ lives,” said Rotary district governor Lorna Curtis.

With more than 100 registered participants, the walk will depart at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday (May 14) from the Hotel Grand Pacific, head towards the Rotary garden at Ogden Point and return to the hotel through James Bay.

Growing up in Victoria, Curtis said she remembered seeing a neighbour wheelchair-bound due to polio during childhood, and receiving the polio vaccine via sugar cube at five years old.

READ ALSO: Polio: When vaccines and re-emergence were just as daunting

“What we’ve done has worked, but we need to finish.”

Since Rotary International began its polio immunization campaign in 1979, 2.5 billion children in 122 countries have been immunized against the virus. Cases have dropped by 99.9 per cent worldwide but remain endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to the World Health Organization.

“Now, just watching what happened in the last couple of years with the pandemic, you can realize how things can easily go sideways. We want to make sure that children under five anywhere in the world are protected from polio.”

On top of polio immunization, Curtis said Rotary’s polio plus program has disseminated measles and COVID vaccines across the world. The distribution of those vaccines benefited from international systems and protocols already established for early polio vaccine distribution by Rotary, said Curtis.

READ ALSO: ‘It makes me feel angry, disappointed, and sad,’ B.C. polio survivor says of vaccine refusal

The walk is part of the Rotary District Conference, which will see more than 90 clubs from Vancouver Island and the Washington State coast gather in Victoria on May 13 to 14. It gives members a chance to set new fundraising goals, share ideas between clubs and celebrate the year’s achievements.

Every dollar donated to the walk and conference will be matched by $2 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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