India launches fresh anti-polio drive fearing virus infiltration from Pakistan

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) The government on Saturday launched a special pulse polio drive for 2017 fearing that the crippling virus that affects children may infiltrate into India from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On the eve of National Immunisation Day, President Pranab Mukherjee launched the programme by vaccinating polio drops to children less than five-years-old at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here.

Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda said India despite being declared polio free was at the risk of revival of the virus because it can come from Pakistan and Afghanistan where it still persists.

He said there was a need “for the country to maintain the population immunity and sensitive surveillance till global polio eradication happens”.

“The risk of importation still persists from…Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria where polio virus is still circulating,” the minister said.

The minister also announced that the government was conducting continuous polio vaccination at the international borders and has also issued travel advisory to vaccinate all tourists.

He said that under an emergency preparedness and response plan, a rapid response teams had been formed to respond urgently to any importations of polio virus.

Pakistan has not able to eradicate the virus despite a nationwide campaign that has often come under deadly attacks by militant groups who suspect that international and local health workers were western spies.

The WHO on March 27, 2014, declared India along with other countries in the Southeast Asian region “polio free” after the last polio case was reported from the country on January 13, 2011.

Nadda said the government has introduced injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) into its routine immunisation program to provide double protection to children.

“Around 17 crore children of less than five years across the country will be given polio drops as part of the drive to sustain polio eradication from the country on the occasion of National Immunisation Day to be observed on Sunday,” a statement said. .

–IANS

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