Vaccination’s Lifetime of Blessings

This week marks the world’s first global summit dedicated to ensuring that children everywhere have access to the full benefits of vaccines. The summit builds on a commitment made last year by nearly 200 countries to eradicate polio, develop new and improved vaccines at affordable prices, and immunize every child by 2020.

CAPE TOWN – A world in which our children and their children grow up free from the threat of polio and other preventable diseases is a dream that everyone shares. But, unlike most dreams, this one is achievable. Over my lifetime, I have been fortunate to witness the extraordinary impact that vaccines have had on protecting children from illness and death – especially in the developing world.

Vaccines have always had a special meaning for me. As a young child in South Africa, I nearly died from polio. Back then – in the early 1930’s – there was no vaccine for this highly infectious disease. With good reason, parents everywhere were terrified that poliovirus would reach their doorstep – like a plague – striking a child and causing irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours, or, worse, death in a matter of days.

The doctors told my parents that little could be done for me, so my father prepared for my funeral. Fortunately, I recovered, except for the use of my right hand. I have gone on to live a wonderful life, but the paralysis in my hand is a daily reminder of why we must urgently pursue the eradication of polio and ensure that all children have access to the vaccines that they need.

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