Even as it was announced on Thursday that only one case of polio had been detected in India this year, UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador, actor Amitabh Bachchan, launched a new campaign for eradication of polio, appealing to parents to ‘Make Polio History in India’.
“I have a new member in my family now. You can rest assured that she will be given ‘two drops of life’,” said Bachchan referring to his granddaughter born last month.
Experts said the number of polio cases in India had dropped owing to the introduction of a bivalent oral polio vaccine in 2010. Bivalent oral polio vaccine targets only two types of polio viruses – P1 and P3 – but not P2, which has been eradicated globally since 1999. The earlier vaccine – trivalent oral polio vaccine – targeted all three viruses.
“The introduction of the new vaccine has helped this near eradication of the virus. The bivalent vaccine is more efficacious as compared to the trivalent vaccine,” said Dr Ravindra Banpel, regional team leader, WHO for the National Polio Surveillance Project.
Dr Banpel said that the trivalent vaccine was administered to children in very high-risk areas including Mumbai, Thane, Malegaon, western Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (Kosi river belt). UP and Bihar have not reported any cases of polio in the past one year.
Apart from immunisation, health workers are also involved in Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance, where every case of paralysis in a child is investigated to check if the child has contracted the polio virus. This year, 50,000 odd cases were investigated in the country.