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Polio Cases In India Lowest In A Decade; Vaccination Effort Begins In Afghanistan

This year “India has reported the lowest number of polio cases in [the] January-June period … in a decade,” PTI/ZeeTV reports. Twenty-four cases were detected between January and June this year, compared to 151 in the corresponding 2009 period, and 317 in January-June 2008 (7/29).

According to LiveMint.com, for the first time in “the history of India’s fight against polio,” the two states that had 97% of polio cases in 2009 – Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (UP) – have not diagnosed any new cases of Type 1 polio in nearly eight months, according to the article. “This progress follows intense, concerted and focused efforts by UP and Bihar states to stop polio,” Hamid Jafari, project manager for the WHO-National Polio Surveillance Project said. “Since 2007, these endemic states have been carrying out a polio immunization round almost every month, focusing efforts on the high-risk areas and population and using the more efficacious specific monovalent oral polio vaccines,” LiveMint.com writes. 

LiveMint.com writes that the decline has been facilitated by “targeted efforts on the part of the Indian government and its supporting partners,” including UNICEF and the WHO, as well as the introduction of the bivalent oral polio vaccine in January that protects against types 1 and 3 polio, according to Deepak Kapur, head of Rotary’s polio initiative in India.

Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan remain the only countries where types 1 and 3 polio are is endemic, LiveMint.com reports. The article also notes the impact of India’s “107 block campaign,” an attempt to improve sanitation, water and routine immunizations in Bihar and UP, and the challenge of mapping and vaccinating India’s migrant population (Politzer, 7/29).

Naveen Thacker, who serves on India’s polio advisory panel said of the new bivalent vaccine’s affect on the number of cases: “We were never so optimistic. The new vaccine has worked well so far as it is effective on both P1 and P3 forms compared to the oral polio vaccines (OPV) which were helping keep only P1 low but were not very effective on P3,” PTI/ZeeTV reports (7/29).

Afghanistan Steps Up Effort To Vaccinate Children Against Polio

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health is stepping up polio efforts, with “more than 20,000 volunteers and health workers” making house calls to vaccinate children, according to U.N. News Centre. Workers will administer the oral polio vaccine to “children under the age of five in 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces,” according to the news service, adding, the three-day campaign is part of a “greater effort” led by Afghanistan’s ministry of health and supported by the U.N. and the WHO. The program aims to vaccinate “nearly eight million children by the end of next year,” U.N. News Centre writes (7/26).