'Polio is close to being totally eradicated worldwide' was the message for Alton Rotary Club members recently in a presentation from Rotary International officer Reg Ling.

He outlined both the progress and some recent setbacks towards the goal of total elimination of polio.

Polio has been eradicated in India and throughout south Asia for ten years, and most of the world now has a high level of polio immunity.

But the Covid pandemic has led to greater community isolation and a reduction in polio immunisation because of the urgent need to develop and deliver Covid vaccines.

Reg said that polio immunisation was now resuming in many countries, with better surveillance and additional test laboratories to monitor any outbreaks of it.

But the resumption of international travel post-Covid had led to the transmission of the polio virus to some cities and international travel hubs.

He said that total polio eradication was very close, but an extensive immunisation programme needs to continue in countries with an infection risk.

In these countries there are 68 million new births each year, with each baby needing three vaccinations. Access to rural communities is a problem, as are some vaccine refusals.

Rotary International hopes to raise $50 million per year to fund its global End Polio Now campaign, which is supported generously by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which double-matches Rotary's contribution to this campaign.

Alton Rotary Club president Lisa Hillan chaired Reg's presentation.

Find out more about Alton Rotary Club at www.altonrotaryclub.uk