Recently, I represented the Rotary Club of Marietta at an Atlanta symposium featuring the Center for Disease Control Branch Chiefs addressing the worldwide outbreak of measles and other infectious diseases. There were about 40 individuals present. I may have been one of the few without an MD or PhD. It was simulcast around the world.
I learned three countries do not adequately vaccinate their children against measles. They are the Philippines, Ukraine and the United States. Really? In some countries, measles can have a 30% mortality rate. The contagion rate is five times that of Ebola. A child with measles can cough in a doctor’s waiting room, and two hours later, another child can breathe the virus and get measles. Even if the child does not die, he can be scarred or go blind.
Some parents resist getting their children vaccinated. According to CDC’s Accelerated Disease Control Branch Chief Robert Linkins, PhD, the vaccine is 95% effective, but not if just 80% get vaccinated. The level of “herd immunity” is achieved when 95% of folks are vaccinated. The 5% who are not vaccinated won’t get measles if the rest are. The U.S. has not achieved that. In 2017, 110,000 in the world died of measles. That is preventable.
When I was born in 1950, a person could catch polio and become paralyzed or die. There were 350,000 cases each year in 125 countries. I have seen polio in Africa. Since 1988, Rotary has helped fund vaccinations for 15 cents each by giving to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and they have reduced polio to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghanistan had 47 cases this year. Vaccinators present their efforts as “politically neutral.” Even the Taliban, who have blocked vaccines, have children and they don’t want them to get polio. I met Carol Pandak, Director of Rotary International fundraising for polio. She met Bill Gates, who pledged a 2 for 1 match of Rotary’s polio collections. Rotary collected $50.8M, so Bill and Melinda Gates wired $101.6M in January! When in history has any other couple been able change the world as much as Bill and Melinda have?
But we must do our part. I just got two shingles shots. We must have our children vaccinated against measles. We are in the bottom three countries in the world. We need to get into the top half of our class!
Daniel F. Kirk