Nearly 174 million (17.4 crore) children under the age of five years will be vaccinated on Sunday, Feb. 21, in the second phase of the National Pulse Polio Programme throughout India. The country, which was declared polio free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2014, will engage two million health care workers in the pulse polio drive.

The five days long polio drive will include booth vaccinations followed by door-to-door monitoring by the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers and volunteers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suggested the police forces to actively engage and oversee the implementation of community programmes like pulse polio drives. The Indian government has pumped in US$2.3 billion funding to make the initiative a successful one.

India has already introduced the inactivated polio vaccines (IPV) programme along with oral polio vaccine (OPV) from November 2015 in a few states and plans to switch to the bivalent vaccine throughout the country in a synchronised manner.

The country has been able to maintain its ‘polio free status’ for the last five years, making a giant leap from 2009 when India reported half of the world’s polio cases — 741 out of 1, 604, CNN reported.

International health organisations like the WHO and Rotary international have lauded the country for eradicating the disease, which causes paralysis in children and can be prevented only by vaccination.

“This is a momentous victory for the millions of health workers who have worked with governments, nongovernmental organisations, civil society and international partners to eradicate polio from the Region. It is a sign of what we can bequeath our children when we work together,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director for the WHO South-East Asia Region, said in a statement.

The first phase of the drive was launched by President Pranab Mukherjee on January 17, 2016. It was declared as a successful campaign by the country’s health minister, J P Nadda.

The heath minister said that the government is vigilant against polio infection and is conducting continuous polio vaccination at the international borders with India, especially when two of its neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan are still battling the disease.

“A travel advisory has also been issued as per WHO guidelines to vaccinate all travellers who are travelling between India and eight other countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Cameroon, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. An Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) is in place under which Rapid Response Teams (RRT) have been formed in all States/UnionTerritories to respond urgently to any importations of polio virus”, Nadda said.

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