The World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia Region completes five years without a single case of wild poliovirus on January 13. This is a remarkable achievement in view of the continued threat of poliovirus importation from polio-endemic countries, experts believe.
Countries in the region have been making commendable efforts, stepping up vigilance against polio and continuing to protect children against the crippling virus. WHO South-East Asia Region reported its last case of wild poliovirus in West Bengal in 2011, which facilitated its polio-free certification on March 27, 2014.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, in a statement issued on Tuesday, said that completing half a decade without any case of wild poliovirus is yet another achievement and a reminder that we need to continue our efforts until the disease is eradicated globally.
“We need to ensure our efforts and investment over the years to eradicate polio do not go waste. Globally, polio transmission is at its lowest ever levels. However, the risk of importation of poliovirus into all polio-free areas persists,” the statement further read.
As part of the Polio End Game strategy, countries in the region are accelerating introduction of one dose of injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in childhood immunisation schedules, along with plans for a globally synchronised, phased and sequential withdrawal of oral polio vaccines from the programme.
These strategies are aimed at addressing all kinds of polio cases, including rare cases of vaccine derived polio.
“Our efforts to stop polio and now to keep the region polio-free have been possible due to numerous innovative strategies that helped strengthen immunisation and disease surveillance, and promote community ownership. While these lessons are now being adopted by the remaining endemic areas, countries in the region need to replicate them and optimally use the resources for other public health goals, particularly in areas of immunisation, surveillance and emergency response,” the statement said.