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Wise to immunise

Aarti Dhar
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As the country kicks in a new Routine Immunisation campaign, it is being globally commended for its three year polio-free status

PAKISTAN FIGHTS POLIO:The global forum expects India to show the way.
PAKISTAN FIGHTS POLIO:The global forum expects India to show the way.

To build awareness on the urgency to vaccinate every eligible child and intensify efforts to improve Routine Immunisation coverage, the government launched Special Immunization Weeks, of which the first came to an end on April 30. The four weeks -- one week each in the months of April, June, July and August -- are being used to hold special immunization sessions in high-risk areas across the country.

This is being accompanied by a new communication campaign comprising a new logo, TV spot, radio spot and posters.

Though every year full immunization prevents approximately 4 lakh under-five deaths from vaccine preventable diseases in the country, 75 lakh children nevertheless miss the benefits of childhood vaccinations. A majority of those missing the opportunity are from among underserved and marginalized populations. Being unvaccinated keeps them at highest risk of catching life-threatening childhood diseases. Globally, every fifth child is unimmunized.

To make polio eradication a world-wide campaign, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GEPI) has now announced a fresh vaccination plan to eradicate Polio footprints by 2018.

At the just concluded ‘Global Vaccination Summit’ held in Abu Dhabi, experts said that by the end of 2018, the world could be free from polio with a robust US $ 5.5 billion vaccination and a monitoring plan. This is the first 6-year plan made to eradicate all types of polio disease (both wild polio virus and vaccine derived cases) simultaneously. At the Summit, commitments and pledges helped USD 4 billion of the US $ 5.5 billion needed to implement the six year plan.

The plan incorporates the lessons learned from India’s success becoming ‘polio free’ in early 2012 and cutting-edge knowledge about the risk of circulating vaccine derived polio viruses. India is being commended as the nation that could help guide the three endemic nations – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria - to attaining similar success through their experience. The country is en route to completing three years without a case of Polio that makes it eligible for the regional polio-free certification in 2014.

The total US $ 5.5 billion six-year budget requires sustaining current yearly spending to eradicate polio. It also includes the costs of reaching and vaccinating more than 250 million children multiple times every year, monitoring and surveillance in more than 70 countries, and securing the infrastructure that can benefit other health and development programmes.

“After millennia battling polio, this plan puts us within sight of the endgame. We have new knowledge about the polioviruses, new technologies and new tactics to reach the most vulnerable communities. The extensive experience, infrastructure and knowledge gained from ending polio can help us reach all children and all communities with essential health services,” Margaret Chang, Director General of World Health Organisation said at the Summit.

Public health experts say if the polio eradication campaign succeeds, the world would not only declare its second eradicated disease - smallpox was wiped out in 1979 - it would also be billions of dollars richer. A 2010 analysis found that if polio transmission were to be stopped by 2015 the net benefit from reduced treatment costs and productivity gains would be US $ 40 billion to US $ 50 billion by 2035.

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