WHO lauds India's year without polio

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WHO lauds India's year without polio
New Delhi:  With a 'zero-polio' record in the last one year, India on Friday carried its fight against the crippling disease to hospitals and health care centres across the country where parents brought their children for vaccination as the World Health Organisation lauded the country's achievement.

The World Health Organisation has commended India's one year of being a 'polio-free nation', calling it a major achievement.

"India's success is arguably its greatest public health achievement and has provided a global opportunity to push for the end of polio," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement.

"Stopping polio in India required creativity, perseverance and professionalism. The lessons from India must now be adapted and implemented through emergency actions to finish polio everywhere," Chan said.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the country is vigilant yet alert.

"We are excited and hopeful, at the same time vigilant and alert," Azad said in a statement. Jan 13 marks one full year when the country has reported no new polio case.

WHO also stressed on the need to remain vigilant.

"There remains no room for complacency. India must maintain sensitive surveillance and high childhood immunity against the wild polio virus to guard against any importation of polio until eradication is achieved globally," the WHO statement added.

The country has spent more than Rs.12,000 crore on the Pulse Polio Programme. It took a lead in introducing bivalent polio vaccine (bOPV) in January 2010.

WHO in fact called the scale on India's polio programme "mind-boggling".

"The scale of the eradication effort in India is mind-boggling" says WHO, "each year, more than 170 million children under the age of 5 are vaccinated in two national immunization campaigns, with up to 70 million children in the highest-risk areas vaccinated multiple times in additional special campaigns; the whole effort requires nearly a billion doses of oral polio vaccine annually".

The last new polio case in India was reported Jan 13, 2011, involving a two-year-old girl in West Bengal. In 2010, there were 42 cases, as compared to 741 in 2009, which accounted for nearly half of the world's polio cases. In 1991, there were 6,028 cases and in 1985 the number stood at 150,000.

"The progress is indeed remarkable, considering that in 2009, India with 741 cases accounted for nearly half the global cases. This giant leap towards polio containment in a short span of two years is an endorsement of India's tireless and persistent efforts," Azad stressed.

Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the country should take the fight against the disease ahead with its vigilance programmes and national immunisation programme.

"India should be most concerned about complacency, which can undo a lot of the strong progress that has been achieved," said Hamid Jafari, the project manager of the WHO-National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP).


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