Eager for the polio vaccine in Ethiopia

Rotary Voices

By John Adams, a member of the Rotary Club of Somerset-Pulaski County, Kentucky, USA

A mother seeks the polio vaccine for her child during immunization activities in southern Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of John Adams

At first, I thought the pull on my volunteer’s vest was one of the 50 or so village children who were following us, touching me to see if I was indeed real, because I was so different from them. But this was more than a child’s curious touch; it was a pull that caused me to lose my balance.

I turned in the direction of the pull to find it was not a playful child; but a determined mother, holding an infant. I will never forget her expression. I had no idea what she said in her dialect of Amharic or the local tribal language, but I knew exactly what she wanted.

I understood because I am the father of a 3 year old and I want the same for my child. We share the want to protect our children from polio. She came to me because I could protect her infant child. It is a powerful and gratifying emotion to know you can instantly change the life of another for the better. I called over to Nancy, a Rotarian from Indiana, USA, who had a ready vial of polio vaccine and we vaccinated the infant against polio.

I understand health workers in other parts of Africa have to spend considerable amounts of time convincing parents to let their children be vaccinated against polio. Not so in the ethnic division of Ethiopia known as the Southern Nations. These folks remember polio from a few years ago before Ethiopia was free of polio. I don’t think they actually know about the recent cases of polio in Ethiopia which migrated from neighboring countries. They just know that when health workers, even volunteers of another skin color from 8,000 miles away, have the vaccine you make sure your small children get the two precious drops. Read more

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