World Polio Day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis.¹
Polio Australia joined forces with Global Citizen Australia, UNICEF, RESULTS Australia, Rotary International and UNICEF Australia for World Polio Day 2018 to hold an event in acknowledgement of efforts to date and the task ahead to finally see polio eradicated from the world.
The World Polio Day event was held on 18th October 2018 at Parliament House. Gillian Thomas (President, Polio Australia), Alan Cameron (Treasurer, Polio Australia) and Paul Cavendish (Clinical Health Educator, Polio Australia) represented Polio Australia.
Gillian addressed the attendees on the day with this speech:
“I contracted polio in 1950 at 10 months of age, 5 years before the first polio vaccine became available. I was in hospital for about 3 years and, on going home, my parents were told I would never walk – the polio had paralysed both legs and one arm. With operations and intensive physiotherapy lasting more than 12 years, I did walk – I proved my doctors wrong.
I had a mainstream education both at school and university, and thought that I had beaten polio. At that time, survivors did not know that polio had a sting in the tail – the late effects of polio – waiting for us 30 years later.
The late effects of polio have robbed me of my mobility and hard-fought-for independence.
Over the last 10 years, Polio Australia has been assisting polio survivors and, more recently, health professionals, to understand and manage the sting in the tail.
This event today celebrates the success of polio immunisation, recognising the need to ensure every last child is vaccinated. The work of the World Health Organisation, Unicef, Global Citizen, Rotary, and their partners and funders, to rid the world of polio is applauded by every Australian polio survivor. For us, the vaccines came too late.
Polio survivors are still here and need ongoing support, as Sir Clem Renouf recognised many years ago when he first proposed that polio eradication be Rotary’s gift to mankind.”