Anti-polio campaign from Jan 20: Azad

Excelsior Correspondent
NEW DELHI, Jan 13: More than 170 million children below the age of five years will be given polio drops in the nationwide immunization campaign for Polio Eradication beginning January 20, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here today.
He was speaking on the occassion of National Immunization Day, which was launched with President Pranab Mukherjee administering polio drops to children at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The Minister said that more than 23 lakh volunteers will participate in this massive national campaign, with more than 1.5 lakh supervisors monitoring the quality and coverage of the immunization activity.
Maintaining that a campaign of such scale and size is unique in the world, Azad said, “Today is a momentous day for the whole country, as India has completed two years without any case of wild polio virus.”
Emphasizing that polio eradication effort will continue to be one of the “thrust areas” of the Government, he said the Government has put in place an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan.
He said the Government is committed to implementing it in all States across the country to deal with any case of polio importation.
“We have put in place an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan which we are committed to implement in all states across the country. Under it, a case of poliovirus anywhere in the country will be treated as a public health emergency. Rapid Response Teams have been formed in all the States and Union Territories, to effectively respond to any case of polio importation,” he said.
The Minister said that the focus of the Ministry and the partners continues to be on the most vulnerable migrant, mobile populations, youngest children and under-served populations, which remain at the highest risk of contracting the disease.
World Health Organization had removed India from the list of polio endemic countries, which was a historical achievement since there was a perception among many experts that India would be the last country to eradicate polio.
This was more so because, until 2009, India accounted for half of the total polio cases in the world.
Azad said that to mitigate the risk, there is a need to continue to protect every child up to the age of 5 years with the polio vaccine, till polio is eradicated globally.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria still continue to be polio endemic countries in the world.
Azad thanked the President for the launch of this mammoth campaign, saying it will send a strong message of appreciation to everyone associated with this programme and will be a great source of inspiration throughout the year.
“We are confident, that under your leadership and guidance, India will continue to make further progress in the fight against polio, so that the country and the South East Asian Region are declared Polio free in 2014,” the Minister said.
Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare S Gandhi Selvan, Delhi government’s Health and Family Welfare Minister A K Walia, representatives from WHO, UNICEF, USAIDS and Rotary India, officers of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other partners were present on the occasion.