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‘The Pulse Polio Programme’

Published: 27th Jan, 2020

The Union health ministry has launched ‘the Pulse Polio Programme’ campaign to check the disease that affects children at a young age. 


The Union health ministry has launched ‘the Pulse Polio Programme’ campaign to check the disease that affects children at a young age. 

The Pulse Polio Programme:

  • India launched the Pulse Polio immunisation programme in 1995 after a resolution for a global initiative of polio eradication was adopted by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 1988.
  • Children in the age group of 0-5 years are administered polio drops during national and sub-national immunisation rounds (in high-risk areas) every year.
  • According to the Ministry of Health, the last polio case in the country was reported from Howrah district of West Bengal in January 2011.
  • Under the Pulse Polio Programme, all states and Union Territories have developed Rapid Response Teams (RRT) to respond to any polio outbreak in the country.
  • Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans (EPRP) have also been developed by states, indicating steps to be undertaken in case of detection of a polio case.

What is Polio?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) defines polio or poliomyelitis as “a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.
  • The virus is transmitted by person-to-person, spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
  • There are three wild-types of poliovirus that cause the disease:
    • Wild Poliovirus 1 (WP1)
    • Wild Poliovirus 2 (WP2)
    • Wild Poliovirus 3 (WP3)
  • Out of the three, WPV-2 was interrupted successfully more than a decade ago.
  • The two remaining viruses, now seen in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, are WPV-1 and WPV-3.
  • Symptoms: Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs.
  • Effect: In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.”

Treatment of Polio:

  • There are two vaccines available to fight polio:
    • Inactivated poliovirus (IPV): IPV consists of a series of injections that start 2 months after birth and continue until the child is 4 to 6 years old. This version of the vaccine is provided to most children in the U.S. The vaccine is made from inactive poliovirus. It is very safe and effective and cannot cause polio.
    • Oral polio vaccine (OPV): OPV is created from a weakened form of poliovirus. This version is the vaccine of choice in many countries because it is a low cost, easy to administer, and gives an excellent level of immunity. However, in very rare cases, OPV has been known to revert to a dangerous form of poliovirus, which is able to cause paralysis.
  • Polio vaccinations, or boosters, are highly recommended for anyone who is not vaccinated or is unsure whether they are.

Is India Polio free?

  • The WHO on February 24, 2012, removed India from the list of countries with active endemic wild poliovirus transmission.
  • Two years later, the South-East Asia Region of the WHO, of which India is a part, was certified as polio-free.
  • The Regional Certification Commission (RCC) on March 27, 2014, stated: “The Commission concludes, from the evidence provided by the National Certificate Committees of the 11 Member States, that the transmission of indigenous wild poliovirus has been interrupted in all the countries of the Region.”
  • To prevent the virus from coming to India, the government has since March 2014 made the Oral Polio Vaccination (OPV) mandatory for those travelling between India and polio-affected countries, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Syria and Cameroon.

Why India still runs it?

  • The Indian policy-makers continue to focus on polio, though the Southeast Asian region, including India, became polio-free in 2014.
  • This is because the threat of resurgence is real and can happen in two ways.
  • As of today, two countries — Pakistan and Afghanistan — still have circulating polio. And the poliovirus can cross borders easily through adults who show no symptoms. 
  • In 2011, 10 years after becoming polio-free, China’s Xinjiang province saw 21 cases of paralytic polio and two deaths.
  • Once we stop the remaining two viruses (WPV-1 and WPV-3) in their tracks, OPV will be phased out and replaced globally with IPV.

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