Increasing Polio Vaccination Rates in At-Risk Communities
Special Projects Fund
December 8, 2022
Polio has made a shocking reemergence in New York State. In September 2022, the New York State Department of Health declared a statewide disaster emergency as a result of polio’s ongoing spread.
Polio had been declared eradicated in 1979 in the United States—the last time there was community transmission. But in summer 2022, an unvaccinated individual in Rockland County contracted the virus and ended up paralyzed. Since then, wastewater testing has detected polio in Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan counties as well as in New York City and Nassau County. As there is no treatment for polio, the only option to prevent it is through vaccination that provides 99–100% protection. Despite vast access to polio vaccines, hesitancy, misinformation, and low immunization rates persist in some communities. High-risk populations include Orthodox Jewish communities, where the first cases have been detected. In 2022, NYHealth awarded the Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association (JOWMA) a grant to help address the reemergence of polio in parts of New York State.
Under this grant, JOWMA will offer community health programs and education to promote increased vaccination in Rockland County and Borough Park, Brooklyn. As a messenger with roots in these communities, JOWMA is well positioned to combat misinformation, build literacy and trust, and advocate on behalf of its patient communities. In Borough Park, it will provide bi-monthly sessions for residents, in coordination with the Borough Park Jewish Community Council. In Rockland County, it will provide monthly sessions for residents, in coordination with community partners such as Refuah Health Center, Ezras Choilim Health Center, and Chesed 24/7 to reach residents. JOWMA will also create tailored print materials for broad distribution at community sites, provide one-to-one education, and help community members access polio vaccinations.