HYDERABAD: As World Polio Day is celebrated worldwide on Saturday amid the Covid-19 pandemic, experts underscored the need to continue the polio vaccination program in order to maintain India’s polio-free status.
Since March 2020, the pandemic has disrupted life-saving vaccination efforts around the world, putting millions of children at risk for diseases such as polio, diphtheria and measles.
The disruption of such routine vaccination services may be unprecedented in both the government and private sectors since the Extended Vaccination Program (EPI) began in the 1970s.
This could significantly lower the population’s immunity to polio, said Dr. Preethi Sharma, consulting pediatrician, KIMS Cuddles, Kondapur.
“Most hospitals have a separate outpatient department for suspected fever or Covid cases, and the vaccination area only allows healthy babies / children to enter. Parents need to be reassured that the risk of Covid transmission during vaccination is almost negligible, but the lack of vaccine definitely increases the child’s risk of getting vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio, “she said.
To successfully eradicate polio, parents should immunize their child with OPV and IPV and continue to have the vaccine administered during state polio trips. Both vaccines are very safe and should continue to be used. The government should be running campaigns to support the vaccination campaign.
After an uphill battle and multiple doses of oral polio vaccine, India was declared polio-free (wild polio virus) in March 2014. This was a tremendous achievement as India was seen as one of the most challenging countries.
“Although India is currently a country without wild poliovirus disease, cases of VDPV disease (Vaccine Derived Polio Virus) can be seen. The occurrence of VDPV disease is a known risk of OPV (oral polio) vaccine, with which the weaker live. The virus given as a vaccine in OPV becomes virulent and therefore causes the disease in some children among the lakhs vaccinated with it. ”
There is an urgent need to focus on the fact that more and more children are being vaccinated with IPV (Injectable Polio Vaccine). This not only carries no VDPV risk, but also offers 99 percent protection against polio and VDPV diseases.
Until all children in the country are vaccinated with IPV, there is a risk of polio recurrence, either from imports from neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only two polio-endemic countries in the world, or from VDPV, the doctor said.
Another important move by the government is the use of the inactivated (injectable) polio vaccine (IPV) in their routine schedule. IPV has been used by private practitioners and corporate hospitals for many years, but can now have a wide range as the government includes it in their routine vaccination schedule. IPV protects against polio without the risk of polio from vaccines. As wild poliovirus is eliminated, OPV must be phased out.
The government has already removed Type 2, which contains OPV (the three-valued OPV-to-two-valued OPV switch). This is because the type 2 component contained in trivalent OPV accounts for more than 90 percent of all cases of poliovirus from vaccines (bivalent OPV does not contain type 2 virus).
“Year after year and generation after generation, the Indian government and the people here have embarked on a missionary path to eradicate deadly polio. Giving newborns polio drops has been a small but extremely effective means of controlling the spread of poliovirus. And it’s the same commitment that is required in these COVID-19 times to put an end to the deadly coronavirus.
“Vigilance is the only way to overcome the current crisis. People have to believe that adhering to mandatory restrictions and ensuring safety standards are the only way out of the problem, ”said Dr. Ravindra Parigi, consulting neonatologist at the Medicover Hospitals in Visakhapatnam.
On World Polio Day 2020, it is important to learn the lessons that India and the world can learn from efforts to date to overcome the current Covid-19 crisis. Although polio is still present in underdeveloped countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, cases have decreased by over 99 percent compared to the 1980s, he added.
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