Linda protects India’s little ones from polio

Linda Downey from Tring has been immunising children against polio.
Linda Downey from Tring has been immunising children against polio.

Children in an Indian town are now safe from contracting polio after a charity volunteer immunised them against the disease.

Linda Downey, past president of Wendover Rotary Club, was one of 32 members from clubs across the UK who travelled to India for National Immunisation Day.

In the town of Lucknow, Linda, who lives in Tring, administered the vaccine to 160 children from her booth in one day, with help from local volunteers.

Polio is a virus that attacks and destroys the nerve cells which control the body’s muscles, and it can lead to paralysis or even death.

The employment of thousands of booths like Linda’s meant that 170 million children under five had access to the vaccine on the day.

Linda, of Grove Gardens, said: “After a member of the Wendover club returned from the trip a couple of years ago, I was inspired and I wanted to go myself.”

The 68-year-old, said: “It was an amazing experience. What the Indian government have done is phenomenal – to have helped us virtually eradicate polio, it’s a great success and to be part of it is wonderful.”

The disease has rapidly declined in India. Twenty years ago, the country had 3,000 cases each year, but for the past two years there have been none.

If there are no more cases reported in the next 12 months, then India will be declared officially polio-free.

But Linda stressed that the fight is not over and Rotary is still working to eradicate the disease in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria and to ensure every child has access to the vaccine.