Gurugram decides to curtail polio drive as staff battle with CovidUpdated: Sep 16, 2020 00:01 IST
With most health care workers engaged in Covid-19 duty, the Gurugram health department has decided to limit the pulse polio immunisation drive to only areas where the inoculation is most needed.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause paralysis and affects mostly children under five years. It is mostly spread through unhygienic practices. The pulse polio immunization usually involves setting up booths and house visits by around 15,000 health care workers in the districts. But with the pandemic, around 13,000 workers are engaged in surveillance and testing for the coronavirus disease Covid-19.
Health officials said that, this time, only 2500 health care workers will be involved in the pulse polio drive to innoculate 77,000 children in high-risk areas from September 20 to 22.
“In the pre-coronavirus time, at least 350,000 children were covered, which has been reduced to 77,000 kids as most of the healthcare workers who are deployed for pulse polio drive are already involved in the surveillance and monitoring of Covid-19 patients,” said Dr. Naresh Kumar Garg, Gurugram deputy civil surgeon, who is also the nodal officer for polio immunisation.
Although there have been no cases of polio reported in the district since 2010 in the state, unhygienic practices remain a concern.
“Gurugram is among the 13 high-risk districts of Haryana. It is, therefore, crucial to conduct polio immunization drive. It cannot be held back due to the pandemic,” said Garg.
Recently, Uttar Pradesh government postponed its pulse polio vaccination drive citing the Covid-19 pandemic and that its accredited social health activist (ASHA), auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) and other health workers were currently exposed to Covid-19 patients.
In April, the Union ministry of health and family welfare had issued guidelines on resuming non-Covid essential services, including polio immunisation. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that those at risk have to be prioritized while catching up with the vaccination if services are suspended.
Dr. Virender Yadav, Gurugram chief medical officer, said, “At least 425 high-risk locations have been identified where pulse polio booths will be set up. Since staff is limited, the department has approached the deputy commissioner to get assistance from non-government organisations (NGOs) with volunteers. In these polio high-risk areas, Covid-19 test will also continue with the help of different teams. Covid-19 testing will not be affected.”
High-risk zones have been identified under each Urban Primary Health Centre (UPHC). These are mostly slum areas or small colonies inhabited by migrant population. “Like in Pataudi, there are 80 booths and 70 in Badshahpur since these area are largely dominated by migrant population,” said Garg.
The vaccination drive will continue for three days. On September 20, booth activity will take place, while on the second day, health care workers will do house-to-house visit to give polio drops to infants and children till five years of age. On the last day, September 22, children, who could not be reached out on the first two days, will be covered.
According to Dr. Garg, health care workers will be tested for Covid-19 before the vaccination drive. “They will be equipped with masks and sanitisers. They will not touch the kid as parents will be asked to open the child’s mouth and the vaccine will be dropped from a distance by the health worker taking safety measure,” said he said.