New strategy to eradicate polio scourge

In 2010, the Centre plans to introduce the bivalent polio vaccine — effective against more virulent P1 and moderate P3 strains — in pockets of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The new vaccine against the virus was necessitated due to the stiff rise of P3 cases in the last four years when the Centre persuaded with a monovalent vaccine targeted against more dangerous P1 strain.

Polio cases in India dipped to an all-time low of 66 in 2005, bolstering the government’s spirit to eliminate the disease within a few years. But the virus showed resurgence in 2006 with 676 cases followed by 874 cases in 2007. While as many as 559 polio cases were reported in 2008, this year 568 cases have already been reported.

Most of the new cases are less virulent P3 strain — 500 in 2009 and 484 in 2008 — whereas P1 cases have marginally come down to 69 in 2009 compared to 75 last year. But yet again, one and half months are still left in 2009 during which the count may go up.

In the new strategy, the monovalent vaccine would be administered in two pockets in western UP and eastern Bihar, which are exporting the virus not only to other states but even other countries.

“The new target is to eradicate P1 by 2011 and P3 by 2012. After eradication, there has to be a mandatory three year period without any reporting of polio cases from anywhere in the country. Only after the polio-less three years, WHO can declare India as polio free,” Panna Choudhury, president of Indian Academy of Paediatrics told Deccan Herald. 

In the face of persistent prevalence of polio, the Centre plans to launch special drives in 10 states — UP, Bihar, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand, Rajasthan and West Bengal. While in UP, Bihar and Delhi this drive will be conducted in a large area, in other states, it will be targeted towards migrating population.

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