75 Million Children Immunized in India/ Polio Countries Hit Low of Four

Seventy-five million children immunized in India
The 2006 calendar of National Immunization Days in India opened on 15 January with a massive campaign aimed at taking the oral polio vaccine to 75 million children in 11 states, including Delhi, the federal capital.
"Within the next six months, India could be polio-free, a major global milestone," Rotary Foundation Trustee Dong-Kurn Lee said in brief statements at immunization launch events. Lee flew in from Seoul, Korea, to join thousands of local Rotarians, as well as over 80 international Rotarians, at the crucial Subnational Immunization Day (SNID). He attended an official SNID kickoff by Delhi's chief minister Sheila Dikshit on 14 January. The following day, he traveled to Bihar, a polio-endemic state.
According to Delhi Rotarian Lokesh Gupta, the "enthusiasm in the field - of Rotarians and of state-level officials - went up several notches at the sight of Rotarians from overseas rolling up their sleeves to retrieve the vaccine from the cold boxes."
"It feels like a fresh transfusion of blood," Deepak Kapur, chair of India's PolioPlus Committee, told a press conference in Patna, Bihar, of the presence of Canadian and U.S. Rotarians at the SNID.
Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, and West Bengal were the other states covered during the one-day campaign.
There is a consensus among polio eradication partners that vanquishing the disease in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the two states with most of the cases of polio infections reported in 2005, is key to protecting children in India and the South Asia subcontinent.
Lee's participation underscored Rotary International's commitment to the effort to banish the lingering scourge of polio from the nation of more than a billion people.
Voicing well-founded fears of an epidemic spreading from just one polio-endemic country to reinfect the world, Lee told Seoul-based Korea Times, "Eradicating polio cannot be achieved without help from all over the world, because although Korea or the U.S. is polio-free, it [polio] spreads right away if a nearby country is not."
In the days and weeks leading to the immunization day, Rotarians supported advocacy, mobilization, and publicity efforts. Religious leaders, including those with compelling personal stories of offspring crippled by polio, were enlisted to help reach out to communities where many parents refuse to have their children immunized.
As part of the mobilization effort, the national PolioPlus committee hosted a recognition ceremony at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, presided over by Ahmad Hassan, the state's minister of family welfare, on 24 December. Government officials, media professionals, and religious leaders who made outstanding contributions to polio eradication were presented with mementos. Senior Rotary leaders, including Past RI President Rajendra K. Saboo and Past RI Director Kalyan Banerjee, attended the event.

Polio Endemic Countries Hit All-Time Low of Four
Eradication drive enters new phase with global roll-out of monovalent vaccines – The number of countries with native polio has dropped to an all-time low of four, as polio eradication efforts enter a new phase involving the use of next-generation vaccines targeted at the two surviving strains of virus.
In 2006, monovalent vaccines, aimed at individual virus strains, will be the primary platform for eradication in all remaining polio-affected areas, announced the core partners in polio eradication – the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF – enabling the eradication drive to hone in on poliovirus types 1 and 3.
This new phase was announced alongside the confirmation that indigenous poliovirus has not circulated in Egypt and Niger for over 12 months. This is the first time in three years that the number of polio-endemic countries has fallen, leaving Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan as the only countries that have never stopped indigenous polio transmission.
"Polio has been endemic in our country for all of recorded history," said Egyptian Minister of Health Dr. Hatem Mostafa El-Gabaly. "The best tools of our age finally defeated this enemy who has been with us from pharaonic times." Monovalent vaccine targeted at the type-1 poliovirus circulating in Egypt was used during vaccination campaigns there in May 2005.
The success in Niger and Egypt is the result of intense efforts in 2004-05 to halt Africa’s polio epidemic and fast-track the introduction of monovalent polio vaccines into selected areas. The number of cases of polio in India and Pakistan in the last quarter of 2005 also fell by more than half compared with the previous year, due to more effective immunization strategies and the use of monovalent vaccine.
"To fully exploit these new tools, government commitment in Nigeria must remain high at all levels to ensure that all children are vaccinated,” said Jonathan Majiyagbe of Kano, Nigeria and past President of Rotary International, which has contributed more than US$ 600 million and countless volunteer hours to a polio-free world. Ninety per cent of polio cases in Nigeria are concentrated in just eight of the country's 37 states.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by national governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF.
ROTARY – An Organization of Business and Professional Leaders, United Worldwide with 1.2 million people in nearly 170 countries providing Humanitarian Service and building Goodwill and Peace in the World. www.rotary.org

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