Polio networks to play crucial role in COVID-19 vaccine rollout: WHO

Surveillance staff covered 208 million people across all 75 districts over last three months to check pandemic

Updated - November 17, 2020 05:01 pm IST

Published - October 26, 2020 05:45 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region. File

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region. File

Uttar Pradesh, the most populous State in the country, used polio micro-plans twice in the last three months to help identify over two lakh people with COVID-19 symptoms. These persons were then followed-up and tested for COVID-19 , said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director WHO South-East Asia, while citing U.P. as an example of applying strategies from polio eradication programmes, to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a release issued by the WHO, South East Asia Region, Dr. Singh also indicated that in the coming months “polio networks, with their vast knowledge on vaccination and tools and strategies tailored to reach the unreached and the most vulnerable, could play a critical role for COVID-19 vaccination roll out.”

Also read |Gear up for vaccine roll out, WHO tells countries

She added that in U.P., the surveillance medical officers’ team coordinated with the State government and a massive initiative of house-to-house surveillance to identify people with symptoms of influenza-like illness and co-morbidities was conducted. This covered 208 million people across all 75 districts.

Stating that the polio-network has been effectively used in south-east Asia region during the pandemic, she said: “Within weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, the integrated surveillance and immunisation networks in five polio priority countries of the region were re-purposed to support preparedness and response. Working among the most vulnerable population and areas, these networks are helping health authorities to detect, test, track, isolate and even prepare hospitals to provide adequate and timely treatment.”


Dr Singh said that from assisting coordination at the national and sub-national levels, to training and building capacities for laboratory and other health workers for detecting cases, tracing contacts, and assessing public perceptions to hospital readiness and preparedness, the WHO’s polio surveillance networks in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal, are supporting with strategies and initiatives, refined over the years and which helped the region achieve polio-free certification in March 2014.

Also read | Government plans special immunisation programme for COVID-19 vaccine

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry in its release on Monday said India has recorded less than 500 deaths (480) in the last 24 hours.

“As part of the COVID-19 management and response policy, there has been a sharp focus of the Central Government on not only containing COVID-19, but to reduce deaths. Collaborative efforts of the Union and State/UT governments have resulted in strengthening of the health facilities across the country. 2218 Dedicated COVID hospitals are providing quality medical care,” said the Ministry.

It added that the fact that many States have conducted population surveys to map and identify the vulnerable population like the elderly, pregnant women and those with comorbidities, had also helped.

“This, with the help of technological solutions like mobile apps, has ensured keeping the high-risk population under continuous observation, thus aiding early identification, timely clinical treatment and reducing fatalities. At the ground level, frontline health workers like ASHAs and ANMs have helped to manage the migrant population and to enhance awareness at the community level. And as a result 14 States and UTs have case fatality rate lower than 1%,” said the Ministry.

These states include Kerala, Nagaland, Assam, Odisha, Bihar, Manipur among others. India has also reported 59,105 new recoveries in the last 24 hours, with Karnataka contributing maximum with more than 10,000 cases followed by Kerala with more than 7,000 cases.

“45,148 new confirmed cases were registered in the last 24 hours in the country. This is the lowest since 22nd July when 37,000 new cases were added,” said the Ministry.

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