When Rotary launched PolioPlus in 1985, the "plus" signaled the belief that the polio eradication effort would increase immunizations against five other diseases prevalent in children: measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus. As time went on, the list of benefits grew.
Polio immunization campaigns created an avenue for other lifesaving health interventions, such as the distribution of vitamin A supplements. New equipment for transporting and storing vaccines made it easier to combat infectious diseases in developing areas.
The enormous network of laboratories and health clinics charged with identifying new cases of polio began to monitor the spread of other viruses as well. And the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which Rotary helped create, rose to international prominence as a model for public-private partnerships to address world health issues.
The "plus" in PolioPlus means that Rotarians are doing more than stopping the spread of polio in the last four countries in which it is endemic; they also are building a legacy of infrastructure and partnerships that will support the fight against infectious disease long after polio is gone.
Transporting vaccines to developing areas is no easy task. From the time they leave the manufacturer until they reach recipients, vaccines must be kept between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (though some may be frozen at -15 to -25 degrees). Variances of even a few degrees could spoil an entire shipment, leaving children without the protection they need.
The "cold chain" created to distribute polio vaccine has been used to transport other vaccines, such as measles, tetanus, and diphtheria. An estimated one-third of the cold chain capacity in sub-Saharan Africa was implemented to support polio eradication.