#WorldPolioDay: India’s fight against the crippling disease

Every year on October 24, World Polio Day is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis or what is commonly known as, polio.

World Polio Day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago and is recognized by the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of the oral poliovirus, developed by Albert Sabin, led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988. As of 2013, GPEI had reduced polio worldwide by 99%.

According to the WHO, polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines. Polio can be prevented through immunization. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life.

The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free. The WHO, has been extremely effective in its pursuit to eradicate the disease, as polio cases have decreased by over 99 per cent, from 3,50,000 reported cases in 1988 to only 37 in 2016.

In India, the last recorded case was in January 2011. The few countries where the disease is still prevalent are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The Pulse Polio program of India was a successful campaign established by the Government of India. All children under the age of 5 years  were vaccinated free of cost across the country.  As a result, in 2012, India was struck off the list of polio endemic countries and later in 2014, India, along with other countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal etc, were announced polio-free.

Publicity was extensive and included replacing the national telecom’s’ authority ringtone with a vaccination day awareness message, posters, TV and cinema spots, parades, rallies, and one-to-one communication from volunteers. Vaccination booths were set up, with a house-to-house campaign for remote communities. Do boond zindagi ki, or two drops for life, was a slogan that gained tremendous traction across the nation, cutting through classes.

India’s efforts didn’t go vain as the nation continues to go polio-free, and the vaccination program will be in place so as to prevent remission.