Editorial: A big, final push can wipe out polio

A Pakistani health worker administers polio vaccine drops A Pakistani health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a young child at a polio vaccination center in Karachi. Photo Credit: Getty Images, 2013

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Thanks in part to armies of selfless volunteers, global health officials are close to eradicating polio from the face of the Earth.

They need support.

The paralyzing, often fatal disease has been stopped in all but three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. One final push is needed to get the job done.

But it won't be easy.

In developed nations, the generations are divided by those who bear a vaccine scar on their arm and those who no longer need one.

Yet the volunteers who go door to door administering the vaccine in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria -- usually young women -- often encounter religious and political opposition.

Last month in Pakistan, nine workers were shot to death -- reportedly by members of the Taliban.

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Militants spread rumors that the vaccinations cause infertility or that the workers are anti-Islamic or spies.

But the ultimate success of the global eradication drive depends on the dedicated efforts of the unsung field workers.

The world should pay close attention to the tough job they're doing.

Pakistan has relaunched its polio eradication campaign now with tighter security and plans to vaccinate more than 2.5 million children, which is tremendously welcome news.

The World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are among the groups spearheading the global polio eradication effort. But there are plenty of other heroes in the battle.

Few have worked with the steadfast intensity of Rotary International, whose members -- including several groups on Long Island -- have raised hundreds of millions of dollars since the mid-1980s to keep the effort going.

And now, despite the challenges that remain, it looks as if eradication might finally take place someday soon.

Only once before has a deadly disease been wiped off the planet: when smallpox was eradicated in 1980.

Even in a world of unfathomable evil, it seems, the forces of good can win.

It justs takes superhuman courage and passion and commitment.

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