The last case of polio in India was reported in 2011 in Howrah district of West Bengal. Thereafter no polio case has been reported in our country.
On 27th March, 2014, India was declared as a “non-endemic” country for polio. In simple words, India was declared polio free in 2014.
It was a historic day as far as an Indian citizen is concerned. This great achievement has been made possible in India by successfully implementing the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) and the Pulse Polio Programme. I have already written about the universal immunization programme. If you are looking to learn about the Pulse Polio Immunization programme, you have reached the right place. This article will be helpful considering the fact that, Pulse Polio Immunization programme of 2017 is due in a few days time.
What is Polio?
Polio aka Poliomyelitis is a deadly incurable disease. It is caused by a virus which transmits from person to person through contaminated food and water. Once infected, the virus affects the motor nerves and other parts of the central nervous system which finally ends up in paralysis of one or more limbs. It usually affects young children. As the disease is incurable, prevention is our best bet. Vaccination is the only proven method by which this disease can be prevented.
To learn more about the Polio vaccines click here.
What is Pulse Polio Immunization Programme?
The Pulse Polio Immunization is a vaccination programme launched with the aim of eradicating Polio from this world. The Government of India conducted the first ever round of Pulse Polio Immunization on 9th December 1995 and 20th January 1996. The beneficiaries of the first 2 rounds of Pulse Polio Immunization in India were all children under the age of 3 yeas, irrespective of their immunization status. All children under 3 years of age were given 2 drops of oral polio vaccine on those Pulse Polio Immunization days. Later on, the age group of the beneficiaries was increased to 5 years, based on the recommendation of World Health Organization (WHO). The pulse polio immunization programme was launched to supplement the UIP. No other vaccine preventable diseases had an additional national level programme aimed at it’s eradication in those days.
Now, you might be thinking that why Polio alone is given so much emphasis compared to the other vaccine preventable diseases? Here is why :-
With the help of vaccines, we have eradicated Smallpox from this world. Polio is one of the few diseases that can be completely eradicated from this world. Polio can be eradicated by vaccination as was done for small pox. Polio vaccines used in Pulse Polio Immunization are oral polio vaccines. The ease of administration of these oral vaccines makes it possible for large scale simultaneous application. It can be even given in the remotest parts of a community. These two facts are the reasons why healthcare providers and WHO are giving such high emphasis on polio eradication compared to other diseases.
Today, pulse polio programme in India has become the largest public health campaign conducted in a country. All children up to the age of 5 years are given 2 drops of oral polio vaccine nationwide irrespective of their previous immunization status. Two such pulse vaccination days are conducted four to six weeks apart, usually in the months of November to February.
Why should I give repeated doses of polio vaccine to my child?
If you’re familiar with the UIP, you’ll realise that every child has to take 5 doses of oral polio vaccine before the age of 5 years. In addition to that, the Pulse Polio Immunization programme vaccinates every child two more times every year. So, the obvious question that rises in everyone’s mind will be related to the repeated dosing of oral polio vaccine.
Repeated doses of vaccination do not have any adverse affects. In fact, repeated doses helps to increase the level of protection of your child from polio infection. Wild polio virus are still at large in many parts of the world including Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are chances of re-emergence of polio infection in India if we stop the pulse polio programme.
Oral polio vaccines might not be able to impart enough level of immunity in some children. Such children would be either immune compromised or will be suffering from repeated diarrhoea or severe malnutrition. Such children can be protected from polio virus by giving the injectable polio vaccine (IPV) or by making the whole community immune against polio. The latter is being done through pulse polio programme by improving the “herd immunity”. By making sure that your child is given repeated doses of polio vaccine, you are indirectly helping those children who are at risk of developing polio even after they get vaccinated.
The anti-vaccine ideologists who boast of their children not getting infected with polio viruses should realise that their children are being protected from the disease only because of the “herd immunity” developed by national programmes like UIP and Pulse Polio Immunization.
Is my child eligible for Pulse Polio Immunization?
Oral polio vaccine (OPV) given in the Pulse Polio Immunization programme are actually extra doses of polio vaccine given to children in India. These vaccines do not replace the oral polio vaccines given during the routine immunization programme (UIP). Please read the following points carefully to decide whether you need to participate in the Pulse Polio Immunization programme or not.
- All children up to the age of 5 years are eligible. This includes newborn babies too.
- You are supposed to give oral polio vaccines to your child (below 5 years) even if your child had received the same oral polio vaccines the previous day as part of the UIP. In short, there is no minimum interval between Pulse Polio Immunization dose and scheduled OPV doses.
- Bring your child to the Pulse Polio Immunization special booth even if your child has mild fever, cough or cold. These conditions are not a problem as far as oral vaccines are concerned.
- You may not bring your child for Pulse Polio Immunization doses if your child is suffering from a known “immune compromised” condition or is taking immuno-suppressant medicines like steroids.
What to expect on Pulse Polio Immunization days?
Special immunization booths will be setup all around your locality. These booths may function in either Anganwadis, health clubs, private and public clinics, libraries etc.
If you find it difficult to find a Pulse Polio Immunization booth, contact your ASHA or MPHW (multi purpose health worker) or your nearest health centre.
Transit booths will be in place at all railway stations, bus stations, airports, etc.
You will find two or more trained volunteers at every such booths where the Pulse Polio Immunization are being carried out.
You just need to take your under 5-year-old child to any one of these booths to get vaccinated. After administering the 2 crucial drops of OPV to your child, the healthcare volunteers will put a mark on your child’s little finger with a marker. This is to make sure that your child has been vaccinated during the Pulse Polio Immunization programme.
You can clarify any doubts related to the vaccination programme by asking the volunteers. They will inform you about the second round of Pulse Polio Immunization (usually conducted one month after the first round).
Pulse Polio Immunization booths will function from 8 am to 5 pm on 29th January (first round). The transit booths will function till 8 pm.
Why conduct Pulse Polio Immunization even after India has been declared Polio free?
One must understand that the transmission of polio virus is still going on many parts of the world. India is particularly at high risk of re-infection with the polio virus. This is because of it’s close proximity with Pakistan and Afghanistan where polio cases are still at large. India was declared a polio free nation only very recently. Before that time, there would have been free transmission of polio virus from India to other parts of the world. This is true considering the large number of Indian citizens working in other countries. Therefore, chances of re-infection through the same route is possible. Programmes like routine and pulse polio immunization have to be continued until this deadly incurable disease is eradicated globally.
Two drops for Life
In a few days time, you will hear mic announcements, watch TV commercials and read newspaper notifications about the biggest health programme in the world. Make sure that you participate in this programme and help the coming generations from the deadly polio virus.
Here are some of the other useful article that might interest you :
- OPV and IPV, the two Polio Vaccines
- Importance of Vaccines
- Why some parents hate the idea of Vaccines?
- Does the vaccines contain harmful chemicals like mercury?
I hope the concept of Pulse Polio Immunization programme has been explained. Please participate in this national programme and help us eradicate Polio from planet Earth.
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