Everyone has a hero and different definitions of heroes. To me, a hero is someone who applies his or her courage and bravery to do what is right to benefit others. Sometimes these heroes are well-known public figures like Nelson Mandela, sometimes they are someone in your personal life like your mother, and sometimes they are someone you’ve never met—like a frontline vaccinator in Pakistan. This week, after learning about the vaccination efforts going on amidst instability and the dedication of vaccinators who risk their lives, in some cases, to do their job, -- I couldn’t help but add to my “hero” list in a big way.
For three days this week, Pakistan conducted its fifth national polio immunization campaign so far this year. More than 200,000 dedicated frontline workers reached approximately 34 million children throughout the country. These committed vaccinators fanned out across the country, going door-to-door to deliver the life-saving vaccine and stationing vaccination posts in railway and bus stations, bazaars and airports.
Pakistan is one of three remaining countries where polio is endemic. While many people in the developed world think of polio as a disease of the past, for children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, polio is still a very real threat and is crippling children every year.
Ending polio forever is a critical step toward protecting all children from vaccine-preventable diseases. And we are more than 99 percent of the way toward this goal. This is thanks in large part to the committed work of millions of heroic vaccinators over the years who didn’t let the odds get in their way.
Today, committed vaccinators in Pakistan can be proud of their efforts to reduce polio cases by 67 percent since this time last year, from 69 cases in 27 districts at this time last year, to 23 cases in 13 districts since the beginning of 2012. As a result, Pakistan is closer than ever to eradication.
And to reach our goal of eradication, these heroic men and women will need to continue applying their courage and bravery to ensure that no child ever gets this preventable disease again and that we end polio forever.