Nationwide immunization round would start on January 20

Overcoming the burden of polio cases was a huge challenge to India and it will continue to make further progress in the fight against the disease to be declared polio-free in 2014, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Sunday.

Speaking at the launch of National Immunization Day (NID) Polio Round 2013 by President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi, Mr. Azad said India has completed two years without any case of wild polio virus.

“Overcoming the burden of polio cases was a huge challenge to India. The polio eradication effort will continue to be one of the thrust areas of the government since the risk of polio persists as long as there is wild polio virus in the world,” said Mr. Azad.

He said to deal with case of polio importation, an emergency preparedness and response plan has been put in place.

“Under this plan, a case of polio virus anywhere in the country will be treated as a public health emergency and Rapid Response Teams will be formed in all the states and union territories to respond effectively to any case of polio importation,” he said.

Mr. Azad said the focus of the health ministry continues to be on the most vulnerable migrant and mobile populations, youngest children and under-served populations, which remain at the highest risk of contracting the disease.

“The programme continues to evolve and innovate to reach each and every child, even in the remotest corner of the country, to ensure that all children are protected against polio,” he said.

World Health Organisation (WHO) had removed India from the list of polio endemic countries in February 2012. No new polio case should be reported from India by 2014, to be officially declared polio free.

The nationwide immunization round would start on January 20 and more than 17 crore children of less than 5 years of age will be given polio drops.