October 24th is World Polio Day, focusing attention on continuing efforts to totally eradicate the disease. I have two polio stories I wanted to share, one personal and one
Coca-Cola. During the summer of 1946, at the tender age of 6, my father contracted polio. While he never ended up in an iron lung, he was hospitalized and was totally paralyzed for several weeks. He was
amazingly fortunate and the feeling slowly began to return to his limbs. Over the next six months he had to re-learn how to walk and use his muscles - then he returned to school. The only long term impact of the illness was that one of his thumbs has a limited range of motion. Nine years after dad contracted polio, Jonas Salk and his team developed the first vaccine, offering a means to eliminate the illness.
Coca-Cola and our bottlers in Latin America were very active in efforts to distribute the polio vaccine. I wanted to focus on one such event in Buenos Aires from 1964. The Coca-Cola office and our local bottlers were part of a larger group involved in a mass immunization effort. Due to the perishable nature of the vaccine, over 1 million doses were shipped from Belgium and had to be quickly distributed throughout the province. The Coca-Cola bottler put his trucking fleet to work to get the vaccines delivered to the various stations and over 16 hours they delivered 1 million doses to 280 stations which were immediately administered. Efforts like this were repeated is several different countries in South America. Programs like these were part of the reason the disease has been contained as much as it has - and for that we should all be thankful. I know my dad is. ^TR