Another Pulse Polio Day in India. India. A shining star in Global Polio Eradication initiative. Last Polio case with onset in 2011. No cases of Polio from wild Polio virus reported after that.

To achieve it is a success. To maintain is more success. Always.

India succeeded because it relied on science. The science of vaccines.

India succeeded because it relied on Public health. The standards of its Surveillance Program.

India succeeded because of Indians. Parents. Health workers. Politicians. Administrators. Community. Vaccine manufacturers. International Agencies. WHO-UNICEF-Gates Foundation-CDC-Rotary -Gavi. And many others. Professional agencies. School teachers. Pediatricians. Medical Associations.

All pledged together. That our Nation shall be Polio free.

Our gift to our children. A Polio free India.

But dark clouds are gathering on the horizon. Number of cases increasing globally. Particularly in our neighboring countries. Pakistan to be more specific. And Afghanistan.

As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries remain at risk of contracting Polio. This is not a mere public health statement. It is a scientific fact. Proven.

In Pakistan. And Afghanistan. Health workers. Administrators. International and local agencies. Are doing their best. Facing bullets from ignorant terror. Laying down lives. And then walking the path again to reach the last child. Lives are being laid down today for lives to be saved tomorrow. A sacrifice that shall bring victory. At cost of precious lives of health workers and volunteers.

Today is a Pulse Polio Day in India. Another chance to vaccinate our very own. Let us make this very successful

Every eligible child in my home, in our neighbor’s home and in every home needs to be vaccinated. The responsibility lies squarely on you and me.

Global Polio Eradication: Where are we?

2019 was a year where global polio eradication was set back by 163 reported cases of Polio caused by wild Polio virus Type 1 (WPV1) and 259 reported cases of circulating Vaccine Derived Polio viruses. (cVDPV).

In the past decades, two strains of Wild Polio viruses (WPV) have been eradicated. Gone forever. For good. WPV 3. WPV 2. Gone. Eradicated. Victory for Public Health. WPV 1 continues to circulate. Causing Polio. Public Health’s challenge.

2020. New year. New decade. Decade of Polio Eradication. And many more Public health Triumphs.

As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries remain at risk of contracting Polio. This is not a mere public health statement. It is a scientific fact. Proven.

Why are we concerned?

Consider the period of January 1 to December 11. In 2018, 28 cases. In 2019, 113 cases. A spike manifolds.

In Pakistan transmission continues widespread. Khyber Pakhtunwala province. Particular concern.

And reports of cVDPV2 from several provinces.

In Afghanistan. Security situation remains most challenging. Southern Region. Inaccessible. Missed children. A huge risk to Polio Eradication.

And there is every evidence from sequencing of viruses that viruses are having a joyride. Across borders. Afghanistan to Pakistan. Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Multiple cVDPV outbreaks in four WHO Regions including African, Eastern Mediterranean, South East Asian and Western Pacific Regions. 7 New countries have reported these outbreaks. Chad. Cote D’lvoire. Malaysia. Pakistan. Philippines. Togo Zambia. And this is spreading.

Rapid emergence of cVDPV2 is of particular concern. It is concerning because the transmission is yet not well understood. And unless we understand the epidemiology and transmission pattern well, we will not be able to act effectively.

This is also particularly concerning because of the depleting stock of monovalent Oral Polio Vaccine Type 2 (OPV2) stockpile. The world waits for the novel monovalent OPV2 vaccine. Will be available in 2020.

So, Poliovirus transmission has now become a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The risk of WPV1 spread globally is rising.

The risk of cVDPV spread globally is rising.

Immunity to Type 2 polio virus is falling globally.

Pockets of low immunization prevail. Multiple reasons. Most importantly poor access.

And the global community is mobile. International coordination is critical to address to the need of the global community in securing high immunity.

The high standards of surveillance that have helped identify the last virus in countries needs to be maintained at its highest efficiency.

The woods are dark and deep no more in lines of poetry. They are a reality now. And the promises can no more be on paper. They must be in action.

Little child Aanav being vaccinated by The Honorable President of India in launching Pulse Polio Program, 2020. may Aanav be blessed with a healthy and productive life.

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