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
"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.
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
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.
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