Polio is a disease that attacks the spinal chord and allows the nerve cells to die. The only cure is a lifetime of sterile injections. Since the release of polio vaccine in 1979, one case of polio has been reported every two weeks. It is contained in polio reservoirs in Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and India, countries where the virus is very easy to catch and needs to be contained.
Unfortunately, polio vaccines do not completely eradicate the disease. In many parts of the world, the polio vaccine is non-existence. There are still 1,000 cases a year, primarily in countries where it is illegal to give children the vaccine. Others are missing the injection because they never received them in the first place. Nearly all of the 1,000 cases are in Africa.
Researchers are now pointing to the removal of polio vaccine from too many children in the world, which is breeding a new generation of virus-carrying diseases. In turn, that is fuelling an over-population of people in the world.
Take polio, for example. After polio vaccine has been administered to all children up to the age of five, the virus is released into the air, raising the number of virus in the air. With each new child who receives the vaccine, the number of viruses in the air increases, leading to a rise in contagious polio in Africa and Asia.
Every eight minutes, a child dies of measles, with 67,000 children succumbing to the virus annually, mainly in Africa. But vaccines are available to control this virus, but too many parents are not getting them for their children. In Pakistan, 76 percent of those receiving the vaccine are not enrolling their children, meaning less than 50 percent of children aged 2 and under are being vaccinated. So in the past month in Pakistan, 37,500 kids have died from measles, and 445,000 were infected with the virus.
And in Pakistan, children suffer from malaria and other diseases thanks to the dearth of measles vaccine. So if you don’t vaccinate your child, you’re also encouraging these other diseases in a vaccine-elastic population.
The consequences of a vaccine-elastic population are dire. As the numbers of children that are not vaccinated grow, the strain on the resources of these developing countries grows. The strain on the resources of developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, are vast.
Much like in the USA, where the availability of vaccines has made it possible for children to be vaccinated on the fly, parents across Africa are worried about the safety of some vaccines and are afraid of being experimented on, even as they are having their children vaccinated. That fear of exposure to new drugs and vaccines is putting children and their communities at risk, as well as the already-inferior respiratory system of the West.
One of the largest effects of vaccine-elastic populations on the health of children is the breakup of families. It’s when a single father gets fired and can’t afford the cost of vaccinating his children, leading the mother to leave to look for work or just to stay with her family in another part of the world.
But even beyond breaking up families, the broken families of those left behind end up infecting the entire population of a country. Because children in broken families are unable to get the immunizations they need, they are continuously dying from diseases they didn’t know they had. The broken families infect children who are born in broken families, and the CDC is now reporting that a third of all children born in the US have either a parent that has had a contagious or parasitic disease in the second or subsequent birth.
It is not just a geographic challenge, but it is a health challenge. Should a parent not be able to afford the vaccines their child needs, life is in danger. With the term “Polio Whacked out” trending as an Internet meme on social media, these families need to learn that there is a different way to “Polio whacked out.” That means finally vaccinating your children.
Until a vaccine is developed that fully vaccinates children against this virus, the only way to make sure your child is free from the disease is to immunize them yourself.
Robbie Semo is a midwife based in Hampton and President of the Bridge Women’s Center. Connect with him on Facebook @ RobbieSemoHWCS.