India will be polio-free in two years: Bill Gates | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India will be polio-free in two years: Bill Gates

"In two years, we hope to get India's polio cases down to zero. It will need several mop-up rounds, but there is a very good chance for India to be polio-free very soon," said Microsoft-founder Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed $102 million for polio eradication in 2011.

delhi Updated: Feb 01, 2011 00:37 IST
Sanchitia Sharma

"In two years, we hope to get India's polio cases down to zero. It will need several mop-up rounds, but there is a very good chance for India to be polio-free very soon," said Microsoft-founder Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed $102 million for polio eradication in 2011.

India witnessed the lowest number of polio cases last year, with only 42 cases reported as compared to 741 in 2009.

The number of polio-affected districts declined to 17 from 56 in 2009 and 90 in 2008. Uttar Pradesh showed remarkable results, recording 10 polio cases in 2010 as compared to 602 cases last year.

On January 23, around 174 million children under 5 years were given polio drops. Six aggressive mopping up vaccination will be conducted in the high-risk districts and states - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Gujarat -between March and November 2011, to break the chain of polio transmission.

Gates Foundation is among the biggest funders of the global campaign to fight polio, where polio vaccines are given to all children under 5 years in affected countries, such as India, at a cost of nearly $1 billion a year.

"Polio cases shot up again in India after going down to 66 in 2005, but since then, there have been several learnings. For Example, it is found that some children in India need more than three drops, which came a bit surprising. Other is that here the bivalent polio vaccines works better, as does getting vaccinators that people can relate to," said Gates, speaking from New York.

Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of $36.4 billion, made grants worth $3 billion in 2009, of which $1.8 billion was for health.