HYDERABAD: As World Polio Day is celebrated around the globe on Saturday amid the Covid-19 pandemic, experts underlined the need to continue the polio vaccination program 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 interruption in 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 level of 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 must be reassured that the risk of Covid transmission during vaccination is almost negligible, but the lack of the vaccine definitely increases the child’s risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio, “she said.
To successfully eradicate polio, parents should have their child immunized with OPV and IPV and continue to have the vaccine administered during government polio trips. Both vaccines are very safe and should continue to be used. The government should run campaigns to bolster 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) vaccination, where the weaker live.The virus given as the vaccine in OPV becomes virulent and therefore results in some children among the lakhs who have been vaccinated with it , to the disease. ”
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 wild 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 step the government has taken is to use the inactivated (injectable) polio vaccine (IPV) in their routine plan. IPV has been used by private practitioners and corporate hospitals for many years, but it can now have a wide reach as the government includes it in their routine vaccination schedule. IPV protects against polio without the risk of vaccine-derived polio. 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). The reason for this is that 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 with the vision of eradicating deadly polio. The administration of polio drops to newborns 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.
“Staying on vigilance is the only way to overcome the current crisis. People have to believe that following mandatory restrictions and ensuring safety standards are the only way out of the problem, ”said Dr. Ravindra Parigi, consulting neonatologist at Medicover Hospitals, Visakhapatnam.
On World Polio Day 2020, it is important to look at the lessons 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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