India has begun a 3-day Pulse Polio Immunization Drive from Sunday, 31 January. To keep the diseases away, the drive will cover kids up to 5 years of age. India will also observe National Day of Polio Immunisation today.
The countrywide immunization program was originally scheduled to start on 17 January, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination campaign, it was postponed.
The Pulse Polio immunisation programme was initiated in 1995, following the Global Polio Eradication Campaign of the World Health Organisation.
While polio has existed for a long time, it first became a major public health problem with major epidemics in Europe and the United States in the late Victorian era, a BBC report said.
The disease causes spinal and respiratory paralysis and can kill patients as well. Even though it remains incurable, in modern times, vaccines have aided in its almost complete eradication.
Yesterday, President Ram Nath Kovind launched the Pulse Polio Programme for 2021 by administering polio drops to children less than five years old at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, in the presence of Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare.
President Kovind launches the first round of Pulse Polio Programme 2021 by administering Polio drops to children at Rashtrapati Bhavan. pic.twitter.com/ukIiqGyq4R
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) January 30, 2021
President and First Lady Smt. Savita Kovind administered polio drops to children on the eve of the Polio National Immunization Day, which is observed on the 31st January 2021 (Sunday), also popularly known as Polio Ravivar.
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. 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.
Speaking at the launch event, Dr Harsh Vardhan expressed deep gratitude towards the President and the First Lady for their kind presence, particularly at the time of COVID pandemic to highlight India’s commitment to protecting all the children of India from all vaccine-preventable diseases.
He reminisced his personal journey of leading the fight against Polio as the Health Minister, Delhi Government when India accounted for 60% of all Polio cases globally. “The strategy of Pulse Polio Immunization Programme was conceived in December 1993 and it was rolled out from 2nd October 1994 when the first child was immunized against Polio as part of this programme.
Almost 12 lakh children were immunized in a single day at around 4000 centres. In 1995 seeing the visible impact of the Pulse Polio Programme in Delhi, this was replicated at the national level.
The Union Health Minister applauding India’s accomplishments along with the precautionary measures that should hence be taken said, ‘Polio-free certification’ of the entire South-East Asia Region of WHO including India on the 27th of March 2014 was a huge accomplishment in the history of India and Global Public Health.
“However, we need to remain vigilant and maintain the population immunity against polio with sensitive surveillance till global polio eradication happens. We all know that poliovirus is still circulating in other parts of the world including our neighbouring countries which may re-infect us. Pakistan and Afghanistan of the Eastern Mediterranean Region of WHO are still reporting Polio cases,” he added.
The Polio drive will comply with the protocols and guidelines of COVID-19 and compulsory masks, social distancing and hand hygiene will also be required during the drive.
Due to the risks involved in the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has urged senior citizens not to go to immunization camps with children.
The three-day polio vaccine schedule will continue until 2 February. The vaccine campaign is organized twice a year for the eradication of polio. Reports say that while the polio immunization campaign goes ahead, the coronavirus vaccination drive will be placed on hold for three days.