AthleteI am Minda Dentler, a polio survivor and the first female wheelchair athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship. I’m working to end polio. AMA!
Jun 23rd 2017 by MindaDentler • 7 Questions • 42 Points
On June 12, Rotary and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced an extension and increase of their financial commitment in an effort to eradicate polio worldwide once and for all. Additionally, 16 governments and several organizations have just pledged $1.2B to eradicate polio. Rotary has already contributed over 1.6 billion U.S. dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer time to the eradication of polio. When we succeed in eradicating polio, it would become only the second disease to be eradicated by vaccines, the other being smallpox.
Personally, I have known Dr. Salk, creator of the inactivated polio vaccine, and Dr. Sabin, creator of the oral polio vaccine through my work at the National Institutes of Health. In 1979 the last case of endemic polio was reported in the U.S. I, along with Rotary International president, Clem Renouf, brought to Rotary the idea to make it our chief goal to eradicate polio worldwide. For the last 11 years, I have been carrying on the visions of Drs. Salk and Sabin as the vice-chairman of Rotary International’s PolioPlus program, which helps oversee Rotary’s polio vaccination efforts worldwide.
In 1916, polio was an epidemic in the United States with over 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. Following the availability of Dr. Salk’s inactivated vaccine in 1955 and Dr. Sabin’s oral polio vaccine in 1962, polio began to decline in developed countries where they were used. That decline began to accelerate as groups such as Rotary International began to champion the issue in the early 1980s.
Today, polio is nearly eradicated globally, as we’ve seen a 99.9% reduction – from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 6 reported cases so far in 2017. Polio is virtually eradicated, but there is still so much more to do. If we don’t continue to vaccinate, we could see 200,000 new cases every year – giving polio an unprecedented resurgence.
EDIT: Thanks very much for all of your questions today. I enjoyed the conversation. For more information, please visit:https://www.endpolio.org/
Doctor, thank you very much for your tireless work.
As a fellow Rotarian, supporter of the Polio Plus program for over 10 years and someone who has contact with polio survivors through work and personal life, I have one question.
What would be the best way to communicate the importance of continued support for this program to younger generations that we interact with and recruit as Rotarians everyday?
While I am very excited by the support, I am concerned that with this influx of support from the Gates Foundation that some may think, "oh that should do it." When the truth is this is a long road we are going down.
I apologize for the run-on sentences.
It's something I've written about. http://time.com/3701392/polio-survivor-vaccinate-children/ Here is a link to the article. Universal childhood vaccines are something I am really passionate about.
I remember vividly the fear of polio when I was young and when my own cousin developed paralytic polio and the great sadness in my family because of this. I remember her need to have multiple surgeries and braces in order to walk. But, in general, each summer the swimming pools would be closed and contact between children kept to a minimum because of the fear of polio. And my father was a practicing physician and I remember going with him and seeing homes where there was a sign on the door: Quarantine and Keep Out Because of Polio. Younger generations won’t remember this. This experience is a distant memory in the U.S. but is still very real for those living in polio-impacted countries. I think that we need to communicate that struggle to younger generations.I think it is important to emphasize in meetings and literature the value of eradicating polio. We have almost reached the point of accomplishing the goal of eradication, but we need to push over the finish line to accomplish the goal. In some regions, like Afghanistan and Nigeria, they’re still having experiences with paralytic polio, which the United States hasn’t since the 1980s. That’s why it’s important to stay engaged with this effort across the world.
Hey Doc, what can people without that kind of money do to help and what's in your cross-hair after Polio ?
Yes, I'm married and my husband and I have a 2 year old daughter. When getting her vaccinated against polio, it turned out to be one of the most meaningful days of my life. It was a bit emotional for me. I texted my best friend afterwards listing all of the ways my daughter's life would be different from mine simply she had access to a vaccine.
Rotary is working actively to raise $50 million dollars per year for the next three years. Even small donations will help to reach that goal. People can also help raise awareness of the problem within their personal networks. Consider contacting your local Rotary club to get involved as a volunteer. We are dedicated to completing the eradication of polio before moving on to other projects.