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Explained: The Pulse Polio Programme, and why India still runs it

The WHO on February 24, 2012, removed India from the list of countries with active endemic wild polio virus transmission.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 20, 2020 9:34:00 am
Explained: The Pulse Polio programme, and why India still runs it President Ram Nath Kovind administers polio drops to infants at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday. (Photo: Twitter/@rashtrapatibhvn)

On Saturday (January 18), the Rashtrapati Bhavan became the site of a polio vaccination drive, to mark the beginning of this year’s Pulse Polio Programme. The Union health ministry has launched the campaign to check the disease that affects children at a young age. The event saw President Ram Nath Kovind and Union health minister Harsh Vardhan administer the vaccine drops to infants.

The National Health Portal tweeted, “India is free from polio but the disease still persists in some countries & it may come back. Make sure every child under 5 years of age gets polio drops.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines polio or poliomyelitis as “a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person, spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis. Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.”

Explained: What is the Pulse Polio Programme?

India launched the Pulse Polio immunisation programme in 1995, after a resolution for a global initiative of polio eradication was adopted by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 1988.

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Children in the age group of 0-5 years are administered polio drops during national and sub-national immunisation rounds (in high-risk areas) every year.

According to the Ministry of Health, the last polio case in the country was reported from Howrah district of West Bengal in January 2011. The WHO on February 24, 2012, removed India from the list of countries with active endemic wild polio virus transmission.

Two years later, the South-East Asia Region of the WHO, of which India is a part, was certified as polio-free.
The Regional Certification Commission (RCC) on March 27, 2014 stated: “The Commission concludes, from the evidence provided by the National Certificate Committees of the 11 Member States, that the transmission of indigenous wild polio virus has been interrupted in all the countries of the Region.”

Under the Pulse Polio programme, all states and Union Territories have developed Rapid Response Teams (RRT) to respond to any polio outbreak in the country. Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans (EPRP) have also been developed by states, indicating steps to be undertaken in case of detection of a polio case.

To prevent the virus from coming to India, the government has since March 2014 made the Oral Polio Vaccination (OPV) mandatory for those travelling between India and polio-affected countries, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Syria and Cameroon.

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