26 Apr LESSONS WE CAN LEARN TODAY FROM THE LAST GREAT EPIDEMIC
Once before – during my lifetime, we faced a fatal disease and ELIMINATED it. Lessons were learned during “The March of Dimes” campaigns we can still apply to eliminating COVID. WE CAN DO THIS, AGAIN!
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:
Already over half – 56% – of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine. That’s the good news.
Now for the really bad news: most Americans who are eligible to get a vaccine and haven’t already – say they don’t plan to. Add in the kids under 16 – for whom vaccines are not currently available, and you have another 24% of the population.
So even adding the 14% of adults who DO plan to get a vaccine – eventually, a 70% adult vaccination rate won’t get us to herd immunity. Because Dr. Fauci estimated it would take closer to 70-85% of the entire population to be vaccinated – including kids – to get us there.
This is the second time in my life that the country’s mobilized to deal with a deadly disease. The first time was polio. In the late 1930’s – before I was born, the U.S. had a president who appreciated how serious a threat polio was to all Americans – although most of them had no idea that President Roosevelt himself had it.
FDR founded the nonprofit National Institute of Infant Paralysis – with its slogan “Join the March of Dimes,” and encouraged every American to send dimes to the White House to support treating polio victims and research a cure.
By the early 1950s, there were over 3,000 chapters of the organization, operated almost completely by volunteers as a grass roots organization, and together they raised over $28 million dollars in dimes, as well as additional thousands in donations.
One of the March of Dimes grantees was a young doctor, toiling away in his lab in the basement of the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh – while kids with polio breathed with the help of iron lungs on the floors above: His name was Jonas Salk.
As kids, we stood in line at school to get Dr. Salk’s miracle shot (made with a killed polio virus).
And later, we swallowed Dr. Albert Sabin’s sugar cubes (laced with a live-virus oral vaccine that’s no longer used). Although everyone was terrified of polio, only 3,145 people – mostly young kids – actually died of it in the US, just half a percent of the nearly 600,000 Americans who’ve already died of COVID. So between 1955 and 1962, 400 million doses of Salk’s vaccine were shot into our arms, reducing the polio caseload by 90% by the end of that decade.
And, thanks to a successful vaccination program, according to the CDC, the U.S. has been polio-free since 1979, when the last cases occurred in four states among Amish residents who refused vaccination.
So how can we apply the lessons from eliminating POLIO to eliminating COVID TODAY?
Create a GRASSROOTS NETWORK of local voices people know and trust to encourage their fellow Americans to get vaccinated.
To do just that, Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy launched the COVID-19 COMMUNITY CORPS a few weeks ago with 275 founding organizations that have the ability to reach millions of Americans.
These groups include health professionals, scientists, religious leaders, MLB, the NFL and PGA Tour, NASCAR, businesses, rural stakeholders, civil rights and union organizations, and leaders from LatinX, Native and Tribal, Black, and LGBTQ+ communities. Basically, Americans from every sector are being tapped to add their influence.
In fact, you may have already seen print and televised ads to promote vaccination among key eligible groups in both English and Spanish.
And Facebook created Social Media Profile Frames so members can share with their followers that they’ve already been vaccinated.
Membership in the Community Corps is open to anyone – including me – so I joined, and you can, too. Just go to wecandothis.hhs.gov/covidcommunitycorps
Together, WE CAN DO THIS!