Exit polio: winning the vaccine way
On the face of it, India seems to be fighting a losing battle against polio. Most countries of the world, including our neighbours Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, have stamped out polio, reports Sanchita Sharma.india Updated: Dec 31, 2008 23:09 IST
On the face of it, India seems to be fighting a losing battle against polio. Most countries of the world, including our neighbours Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, have stamped out polio. India is among only 17 nations where polio cases were reported in 2008 — cases shot up from just 66 in 2005 to 535 in 2008 (as on December 16, when data was last released). That’s one-third of the 1,572 cases reported all over the world last year.
Still, the Indian government’s partners in the polio eradication scheme — WHO, UNICEF, USAID and Rotary International — are confident that India is closer to eradicating polio in 2009 than ever before. The reason — it has finally put in place processes to stop transmission of the deadly and highly infectious type 1 strain of polio during spring and summer (low transmission dry season) 2009.
The Expert Advisory Group for Polio Eradication is optimistic that we’ll be closer to eradication with the aggressive use of monovalent oral polio vaccine type 1 across India and the introduction of injectable polio vaccine in nine high-risk districts of Uttar Pradesh. The polio virus has proved especially difficult to stamp out in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, from where it is carried to other parts of the country by migrants.
The vaccine’s effectiveness has been consistently low (only nine per cent against poliovirus type 1, which is the more deadly of the strains) in these two high-risk states, despite children in these areas receiving an average of upto 15 doses per child.
According to WHO, the ineffectiveness is not due to poor storage or low quality of the vaccine, but because poor nutrition and non-existent sanitation in these states lead to frequent bouts of diarrhea, causing children to expel the oral vaccine from their gut before their body has developed immunity against the disease.
With the country going on an immunisation overdrive in 2009, hopefully we will win the war against polio this year.