It was certainly a throwback to see the old 1965 photo of the Blackburn Rovers players lining up for their sugar cube immunisation at Ewood Park, just before they set off for Holland on a pre-season tour. The image is a stark reminder of just how serious the epidemic was and how many lives were saved by taking the vaccination. The image of the football players taking the vaccination was not only protecting them, but sending a strong message to the public about the importance of Polio vaccination. Fast forward 50 years and we now live in a society where the world has almost been declared Polio-free and vaccinations are available worldwide, with regular vaccination drives in the few remaining places where Polio is endemic. Polio is so close to being the second human disease to be eradicated globally, after the amazing smallpox total eradication triumph back in 1980. These are human achievements that cannot be overestimated.
However we must remember that for those who contracted this awful disease in 1965 and indeed before and after, may now be suffering with the legacy of Post Polio Syndrome (PPS), a neurological condition that affects around 80% of Polio survivors. 120,000 Polio survivors in Britain already live with PPS, and face up to six years waiting for a diagnosis; without an established care pathway, they struggle to access essential treatments and benefits. While there is no cure for PPS, there is much we can do to alleviate and manage the symptoms. We have a local branch in North East Lancashire, based in Burnley. Any readers in Blackburn and North East Lancashire who have had Polio and need support and guidance with PPS or other mobility issues, should contact us free of charge on 0800 043 1935 or visit www.britishpolio.org.uk
National Chairman, The British Polio Fellowship