Polio Pioneer Award

At the recent District 9455 Conference, Past RI Director Dr Ken Collins was presented with the PolioPlus Pioneer Award.

Dr Collins is one of just 16 Rotarians recognized worldwide in 2018-19. This award honors Rotarians who have given extraordinary service to the Polio Eradication Program between July 1985 and November 1992.

PRID Stuart Heal presenting PRID Ken Collins with the award at the District 9455 Conference

Dr Collins is a true Rotary veteran, with 52 years of active Rotary service. Polio eradication is a cause dear to his heart, as his older brother spent 2 months hospitalised with polio in 1945, and Ken himself contracted a mild case of polio in 1949.

In February 1985, Dr Collins attended the International Assembly as an incoming District Governor. The Rotary International President advised that the Board had agreed to provide vaccine for 5 years for the estimated 100 million children born each year who were currently not being immunised. To do this we had to raise US$120 million in three years. 

Immediately afterwards Dr Albert Sabin came onto the stage and stated that although vaccines had been available for 30 years, there were still 500,000 cases of Polio occurring each year in 150 countries. Dr Sabin begged the incoming District Governors to help him achieve his dream of a Polio free world. Immediately Dr Collins’ mind flashed back to the fear experienced in the 1940s and he vowed to do all he could to help eradicate Polio from the face of the earth.

Dr Collins spearheaded the fundraising campaign in his district between 1985 -1988. Following this, he participated in PolioPlus surveys to the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia; represented RI at a WHO meeting in Indonesia; and initiated a Matching Grant project to provide equipment for a Viral Laboratory in Thailand.

Dr Collins conducting a polio assessment in the Philippines

However, his service to the eradication of Polio did not end there. For 34 consecutive years he has worked at club, district, national and international levels, including representing The Rotary Foundation at World Health Organization (WHO) meetings in 5 counties, attending National Immunisation Days in Myanmar and India.

Giving polio immunisations during a National Immunisation Day in India

In 2005 obtained a contribution of $2.5 million from the Australian Government through the then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

But his greatest contribution occurred on the 25thJuly 2011 when he and Chris Maher from WHO met in Canberra with two advisors of the then Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd seeking a donation of $50 million. Early in the meeting the senior advisor told them that had it not been for the fact that they were making a joint approach from Rotary International and WHO the advisors would not even be talking with them. At the end of the presentations they were advised “It is not a matter of if but how.” At the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth three months later, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed that the government would contribute $50 million to the End Polio Now Program.

Dr Collins truly has been a dedicated pioneer worthy of this honour, and we congratulate him on both his ongoing service and his award.

Comments are closed.