Progress in Eradicating Polio
Polio has nearly, so nearly but not yet totally been eradicated. In 2015 there were 73 confirmed cases of Wild Polio Virus worldwide (down from 359 in 2014)
and there were only two endemic countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. 53 of the 73 confirmed cases were in Pakistan. To date in 2016 (albeit only 7 weeks into the year), there has been one. Obviously we are not yet able to say that Polio has been eliminated but we cannot be far away from Zero Year.
The last case of Polio in India was in 2011 and hence India was declared Polio Free in 2014. To date around $8.2 billion has been spent on the eradication of Polio.
- Rotarians have contributed $1.5 billion towards the cost of eliminating Polio worldwide;
- Helped raise another $6.7 billion from donors of which the Indian Government has contributed around $200 million
India has decided to continue its vigilance over Polio because it shares borders with both endemic countries and countries which they feel are not being as proactive as they should be with activities which will maintain their Polio Free status.
Following the meeting, we got on our bus and headed off for Ludhiana, a journey of over 8 hours.
The logistics of a National Immunisation Day are quite astonishing.
- 709,000 vaccination booths
- 2,599,000 vaccinators
- 1,170,000 vaccination teams
- 155,00 supervisors with 155,00 means of transport (cars, bikes, boats, elephants, camels…..)
- 225 million doses of vaccine
- 2 million vaccine cold carrier bags
- 6.3 million ice packs to keep the vaccine cold
- 209 million homes visited
- 170-172 million children vaccinated
Currently Mass Immunisation on NIDs is carried out with Oral Polio Vaccine because it is cheap and easy to administer. Oral Polio Vaccine is a vaccine made from live a very weakened but live virus. Because it is live, it carries with it a very slight risk of causing Polio in its recipients.
There are three types of Polio virus and hence for many years, the vaccine administered was designed to immunise against the three strains (trivalent vaccine). One strain however has not been seen for many years and therefore from April 2016, India will switch to bivalent vaccine which means that there will be more vaccine for each of the two strains in each drop.
From 2018 India intends to switch to injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine which was developed by Dr Jonas Salk in 1955 because it is more effective and very safe. The intention is that this vaccine will be administered at the same time as other vaccines to newly born children at health centres across India. Achieving this is much harder than it sound because currently only 65% of children currently receive routine vaccinations at birth.
This year Rotary are sending teams to six different places
and 105 Rotarians from the UK have committed themselves to go to the NID at their own expense. We (Pat and I) are leading the small team of twelve going to Ludhiana in the Punjab.
For all of us, NIDs always start with a briefing in Delhi
During this briefing we are told that there will be another National Immunisation Day in 2017 and that they hope that Rotarians from the UK will take part. We will continue to be members of the team fighting this disease until India totally moves to Injectable Vaccine and Polio is history.
Briefing over, it was then on to the coach for the long drive to Ludhiana - Google says just under 6 hours, we know it will be different!
Little did we know that our drive towards Ludhiana would be very much easier than the return journey nor that the enormous number of people who came towards us on both sides of the road when we were about 50 kms north of Delhi was the start of a major riot.
As we drove north west in blissful ignorance, we stopped for lunch at a Haveli
which was a very upmarket roadside eatery
serving very nice cheap food
and then later we stopped for tea
and the toilets.
At our hotel in Ludhiana, we were welcomed by the local Rotary Clubs with traditional Marigold Garlands
and then we were able to check into our room
which included the most enormous bath placed in the window - a pity the bath was so badly plumbed in that we could not use it.