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What is pulse polio and why should you give polio drops to your child?

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India has been declared polio free on 27th march 2014. The universal immunisation programme which ensures certain compulsory vaccines for all newborns includes the injectable polio vaccine which is less potent and safer than the oral polio drops.

Why then is the government conducting the pulse polio campaign and insisting on administering the polio drops to all children upto the age of 5?

Why should you take your child to get these oral polio drops on the designated day every year inspite of him being up-to-date on all his vaccines?

I come across these question from anxious parents every year. This year too the pulse polio day has been announced as 19th January 2020 and many parents are wondering if they should take their child to the vaccines centers or not.

So in this article I will attempt to explain the significance of the pulse polio campaign and why it is absolutely essential for every child below the age of 5 to get the oral polio drops on that day.

Poliomyelitis or Polio as it is more commonly known is a viral infection that affects the nerve endings and can cause paralysis and other complications including even death. The virus spreads by feco – oral route which means through contaminated food and water. This disease cannot be cured. Prevention by vaccine is the only way of avoiding this disease.

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There are 2 types of vaccines available to prevent polio. One is the oral polio drops which is more potent and contains the live form of the virus. The other is the injectable vaccine which is less potent and contains the killed form of the virus.

India has been fighting a great battle against polio since 1988 when the number of annual cases reported were few lakh leaving many children paralysed for life.

The pulse polio programme was launched in the year 1995 and since then we have achieved tremendous success in eliminating polio. The oral polio drops were used extensively under this campaign over the past 2 decades. The last case was reported in 2011. and India was declared polio free on 27th March 2014. This was a major achievement by the Indian government.

Inspite of this the threat of resurgence of this deadly disease is very real. There are a few reasons for this:

polio cases 2019 - source: European Center for Disease Control
  • · Among the south east Asian countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan are not declared polio free yet. Since we share a border with Pakistan and also due to increase in global travel, the virus could easily enter India again.

  • · The wild polio virus(WPV) which causes the disease has been controlled but there is a threat that the vaccine virus which is a weak form may undergo mutation to cause a disease outbreak in itself.

The risk of both these possibilities can be reduced by maintaining a high level of immunisation among the population. And even if there is a vaccine polio virus(VPV) outbreak the children vaccinated with the oral polio drops are more likely to be protected.

Over the past few years the oral polio drops have been gradually phased out of the routine immunisation schedule and replaced with the safer injectable form.

However the oral polio drops still need to be administered during the pulse polio day to maintain high levels of immunisation among the population. High levels of immunisation lead to ‘herd immunity’, thereby protecting even the few unimmunised within the population.

By getting your child vaccinated you are not only protecting him/her but also helping the country remain polio free.

So what are you waiting for? Mark your calenders today for the 19th Jan 2020 as Pulse polio day and make sure to get those 2 drops for your child!

#nationalimmunizationday #pulsepolio #endpolio #bbmp #rotarybengaluru
image source: twitter

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