When Rotary pledged its effort to eradicate polio worldwide, in 1985, there were 125 polio endemic countries and 71 polio-free.  Since then 2 billion children have been vaccinated in a global effort to eradicated the disease..  Rotarians alone have contributed over $1Billion and participated in National Immunization Days around the globe. 
One of the last countries to report a case of polio was India. It has been two years since that Indian case in West Bengal was documented.  
Since the polio virus can live in the ground or sewage for the up to three years, the World Health Organization (WHO) is about to declare India “polio free”.  
The Indian government continued its strategic approach to ensuring that all children under the age of 5 continue to be vaccinated.  
This year’s National Immunization Day was February 24, and local Rotarians, Barbara and Bill Wilson flew to India to be part of this grand effort.
A combination of WHO workers, Rotarians and local volunteers, a total of 2.3 Million volunteers, joined together to immunize 176 million children that day.

The organizational structure resembled a military campaign.  Each area of the country was divided into sectors and each sector determined the number of personnel, vaccines, doctors, volunteers and immunization station that each community needed.  Stations were set up around the community and the day was highly publicized by large posters, broadcasts, drummers and a parade through town on the day of the event.  Children and parents joined the parade in a pied piper like approach as volunteers pointed out the staging areas around the community.  

Our assigned town was Ghasera in the Merat district, about 2 ½ hours from Delhi, on a dusty bus ride. It was a Moslem community, which posed its own challenges since many of the mothers did not feel free to walk among men to bring their children to be immunized.  Often older siblings brought babies on their hips.  Each immunized child had a pinkie finger marked with indelible ink, so we could be assured that no child was missed. 

There were 3 or 4 volunteers per station, and since refrigeration was an issue, we had to be careful to ensure that when our coolers were running low, we called ahead for the next batch of vaccine to be delivered.  Local townspeople kept count of the numbers at each station.  We gave two drops of oral polio vaccine (OPV) to about 250 children at our station.  The World Health Organization workers followed up in the days after by going house to house to ensure that every young child was vaccinated.

There are 3 polio endemic countries left. New cases continue to be documented there.  They are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.  We are ALMOST a polio free world, but polio knows no boundaries and we cannot stop this monumental effort until the job is completely done.