President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday launched the pulse polio programme for 2021 by administering polio drops to children below five years of age at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
In a statement, the Health ministry said President Kovind and First Lady Savita Kovind administered polio drops to children on the eve of the Polio National Immunization Day, which is observed on January 31 and is also popularly known as Polio Ravivar.
"Around 17 crore children of less than 5 years of age will be given polio drops as part of the drive of Government of India to sustain polio free status of the country. The countrywide drive will be supported by about 24 lakh volunteers, 1.5 lakh supervisors and many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), WHO, UNICEF, Rotary etc," it said.
"Healthcare workers will be visiting as many as 2 crore households to ensure that no child is left without the protection of the polio vaccine," the statement said.
Health minister Harsh Vardhan also attended the event. He highlighted the mitigation measures and the efforts in strengthening routine immunization by the government.
"While we are making efforts to protect our children from more and more diseases, it is important that all vaccines under the programme reach every last child of our country," Mr Vardhan said.
"The lessons learnt from polio programme are being implemented to strengthen routine immunization by carrying out Mission Indradhanush, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, Extended Gram Swaraj Abhiyan and Intensified Mission Indradhanush I and II -- a drive toward 90 per cent full immunization coverage of India by year 2018 and to sustain it thereafter," he said.
The health minister further said, "In order to close gaps that might have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, another phase of Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI 3.0) has been planned in 250 high risk districts of the country during February and March 2021. In addition to this, guidance for conduction of Sub-National Immunization days for polio and sensitive surveillance of vaccine preventable diseases during pandemic has also been issued to States."
Mr Vardhan also appreciated the efforts of state governments and supporting organizations like the WHO, UNICEF and Rotary International etc., for strengthening the efforts of the government not only for the polio programme but also for other initiatives in immunization.