Skip to main content

Rotary clubs in Brazil stand ‘Together Against Polio’

Campaign to fight polio was inspired by COVID-19 vaccination effort

Skip to main content


Not everything that happened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been negative. In Brazil, the pandemic led directly to the creation of a powerful new campaign to promote polio vaccination.

Anti-vaccination sentiment emerged all over Brazil during the pandemic. To reassure people that vaccinations are safe, Antônio Henrique Barbosa de Vasconcelos — a member of the Rotary Club of Fortaleza-Alagadiço, Ceará, Brazil, and now a member of Rotary International’s Board of Directors — suggested creating an evidence-based information campaign. The campaign, called Information Saves Lives, highlighted facts and statistics from the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.

“The COVID campaign was a complete success,” Vasconcelos recalls. “At the launch, we used a room for 500 people. It was packed in the first few minutes.”

For the Information Saves Lives campaign, Vasconcelos’ team designed a wide array of media to promote vaccination: magazine ads, billboards, stickers for bus windows and bus stops, radio spots, a website, and social media graphics. The materials were distributed to clubs all over Brazil, many of which were able either to raise money to pay for media placement or use partnerships to secure free placement.

Soon, Vasconcelos and the other planners realized they could use the same approach to promote polio vaccination. Polio was last recorded in Brazil in 1989, but low vaccination rates could lead to reappearance of the disease. According to the country’s Ministry of Health, the vaccination rate was just 72% in 2022 for children under five years of age. The goal of the National Immunization Program is to vaccinate between 90% and 95% of that group. 

Vasconcelos assembled a team made up of Rotary public image coordinators, polio staff, members of Rotaract and Interact, and staff from Rotary Brasil magazine to create new messaging addressing polio. In addition to the media used in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Together Against Polio also includes designs that can be printed on balloons and T-shirts. The Together Against Polio website and social media graphics take the message online.

One of the advertisements in the Together Against Polio campaign

The new campaign’s colorful artwork was deliberately upbeat. 

“The idea was to get children vaccinated against poliomyelitis and at the same time to work on diversity — to show different people united together,” says Carlos Daniel Fernandes, a Rotary public image coordinator and a member of the Rotary Club de Ribeirão Preto-Oeste, São Paulo, Brazil. “We wanted to draw attention with joyous images, not sad scenes.”

The Together Against Polio campaign is even stronger than the Information Saves Lives campaign was, Vasconcelos says. At the new campaign’s September launch, almost 2,000 people attended in person, and more than 800 joined online. 

“We have had great feedback,” Vasconcelos says. “We receive dozens of publications and images of events and actions throughout Brazil from the campaign every day.”

As with the Information Saves Lives campaign, Rotary clubs have often been able to print materials and secure ad space for the Together Against Polio campaign at no charge through local partnerships.

“We got static and digital billboards in my city of Fortaleza for free,” Vasconcelos says. “The clubs in my city had 2,000 posters made to be placed in hospitals, schools, health centers, buses, and other visible places, free of charge.”

Because the Together Against Polio messaging has already been approved, the materials can easily be used by clubs, says Aurea Dos Santos, senior content and public relations strategist for Rotary International’s Brazil office.  

“Clubs all across the country don’t have to modify anything in order to use the materials,” she says. “Everything is available on the website, and members can download and use them according to the places and media outlets they have available for the campaign in their regions.”

As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary is part of a joint effort that has led to a 99.9% reduction in polio cases worldwide since the establishment of GPEI in 1988. Rotary and its partners have immunized three billion children against polio in 122 countries.

– November 2023