State pioneers of PPI programme to be honoured

The World Health Organisation has officially removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries, as India has not had a case of polio since January 13, 2011, according to the website of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad also announced at the Polio Summit 2012 in New Delhi on Saturday that he received a letter from the U.N. body to this effect. The statistics provided by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative on India stated that there was only one polio case in the whole of 2011, and that the most recent case was reported on January 13, 2011.

The seeds for this achievement were sown in Vellore about 30 years ago at the initiative of the Rotary Club of Vellore with the support of the Christian Medical College, Vellore, according to T. Jacob John, Emeritus Professor of Virology, Christian Medical College, Vellore and a former president of the Rotary Club.

Recalling the early initiative, Dr. John told newspersons on Friday that statistics gathered by the club in 1980-81 within Vellore town revealed that the monthly average of polio cases was 4.2, while there were 51 cases per year. In September 1981, 6000 children walked from the Katpadi Railway Station to the CMC, Bagayam as part of the programme, ‘Walk for those who cannot walk'.

The same year, the club, in association with the CMC launched a polio control programme in Vellore through the pulse immunization. K. Mohan, another former president of the Rotary Club said that the pulse immunization concept was developed, field-tested and scaled up in Vellore by Dr. John, with the required OPV being gifted by Save the Children Fund, U.K. In 1982, Clem Renouf, past president of Rotary International (architect of the Rotary International Health Programme), who visited Vellore to learn about the pulse immunization method was impressed by its simplicity and success and the fact that it could be replicated in other countries. The good impression he got about the success of the programme in Vellore influenced him to take up the pulse polio immunization (PPI) programme as a project of Rotary International throughout the developing world in 1984.

Dr. John said that in January, February and March 1985, the Rotary Club of Vellore demonstrated the PPI concept in Chennai, where all children below five years were administered one dose, using 2.40 lakh doses. In 1986, R.I. District 3230 received $2.6 million for the Tamil Nadu Pulse Polio Project. Then Tamil Nadu Health Minister H.V. Hande supported the programme in the state. The Rotary International gave a pulse polio grant to the Government of India in 1990, and India went into the pulse polio mode in 1995-96, from when the programme is being implemented in the country regularly, culminating in the present achievement of ‘one year of polio-free India'.

At a function being organised on Sunday in Vellore, the Rotary Club of Vellore would be honouring Dr. Hande, the patron of the PPI programme, and the PPI pioneers R. Raja Ramakrishnan, Past Rotary District Governor (PDG), B. Viswanatha Reddy, PDG, P.V. Purushothaman, PDG, Krish Chitale, Rotarian, V. Chidambaram, PDG (posthumously) and Dr. John. V.S. Vijay, Health Minister, will be the chief guest.