Scourge stamped out

Effective immunisation campaigns help Europe purge its 51 member-nations of polio

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

europe has been declared polio-free. For some 870 million people living in the region's 51 member states, this declaration is an important public health milestone in the new millennium. The European Regional Commission for the Certification of the Eradication of Poliomyelitis confirmed that the disease had been eradicated in the continent.

Europe achieved this status through national immunisation campaigns wherein 60 million children under five years of age received two extra doses of the polio vaccine from 1995 to 1998. "To reach this stage of success required the full commitment and cooperation of each of our member states, the hard work of public health workers and the firm support of international partners in coordination with the World Health Organisation (who)," said Marc Danzon, who regional director for Europe. Europe now joins the Americas and the Western Pacific as a 'polio free' region.

In stark contrast to Europe's success story, India still has a long way to go to achieve its polio eradication target. According to official figures, in the year 2001 around 480 cases of polio were reported globally out of which as many as 268 were reported from India.

Experts warn that the situation will be worse this year. "In 2001, there were just 17 pre-monsoon polio cases. But this year 79 incidences have already occurred," says Rajiv Tandon, project executive director, Rotary International Polioplus India -- one of the organisations actively involved in the polio eradication programme in India.

Though the Pulse polio immunisation programme initiated in 1995 was very successful as it reduced the number of polio cases from 2,534 in 1997 to 265 in 2000, experts say it has now become static. However, authorities claim that India too can hope for a success similar like Europe in five years. "Though we have had a few cases this year, it is unlikely that there would be any new cases. We have also intensified immunisation and surveillance activities in the affected areas," says S Sarkar, assistant commissioner, Union ministry of health and family welfare.

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