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World Polio Day: Making Child Vaccination a Priority Even in Pandemic 

Hyderabad: As the World Polio Day is observed around the world in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday, specialists underlined the requirement for continuing with the polio vaccination programme to help keep up India’s polio-free status.

Since March 2020, the pandemic has interrupted life-saving vaccination endeavours around the globe putting a large number of children in danger of diseases like polio, diphtheria, and measles.

The interruption of such routine vaccination services might be unprecedented since the beginning of the extended programme on immunisation (EPI) during the  1970s, in both government and private sectors.

This may essentially diminish the immunity level of the populace against polio, said Dr Preethi Sharma, Consultant Paediatrician, KIMS Cuddles, Kondapur.

She stated, “Several hospitals have a separate outpatient department for any fever or COVID suspect cases and the immunisation area permits entry of only healthy babies/children. The parents need to be reassured that the risk of COVID transmission during vaccination is almost negligible but missing the vaccine can definitely increase the child’s risk of getting infected with vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio.”

So as to effectively eradicate polio, guardians should get their child vaccinated with OPV and IPV and furthermore continue to get the vaccine administrated during government polio drives. The two vaccines are exceptionally safe and their utilization should continue. The government should have campaigns to fortify the vaccination drive.

After a difficult battle and multiple doses of the oral polio vaccine, India was announced polio-free (wild polio infection) in March 2014. This was a huge achievement as India was viewed as one of the most challenging nations.

There is a critical need to focus on getting more and more number of children vaccinated with IPV(Injectable Polio Vaccine), which represents no danger of VDPV as well as gives 99 per cent protection from VDPV disease and wild polio.

Until all the children in the nation are not immunized with IPV, the danger of polio resurgence either because of importations from neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only two polio-endemic nations on the planet now, or from VDPV will be there, the doctor stated.

Another significant step which the government has taken is to begin utilizing the inactivated (injectable) polio vaccine(IPV) in its routine schedule. IPV has been utilized by private practitioners and corporate hospitals for a long time yet now it can have boundless reach with the government adopting it in its standard vaccination plan. IPV protects against polio with no danger of vaccine-derived polio. As wild poliovirus is eliminated, OPV should be phased out.

The government has already removed type 2 containing OPV. The explanation being the type 2 segment contained in trivalent OPV represents more than 90% of all vaccine-derived poliovirus cases (bivalent OPV doesn’t contain type 2).

Dr Ravindra Parigi, Consultant Neonatologist at Medicover Hospitals, Visakhapatnam stated, “Year after year, and generation after generation, the government of India and the people here have taken a mission route with the vision to eradicate deadly polio. Administering polio drops to new-born babies was a small yet most effective means of tackling the spread of poliovirus. And it is the very commitment that is required in these COVID-19 times to put a finish to the deadly coronavirus.”

The doctor included, “Not letting the guard down is the only way to overcome the present crisis. People must believe that following prescribed restrictions and ensuring safety norms is the only way we can come out of the problem.”

On World Polio Day 2020, it is essential to take a look at the learnings India and the world can take from the past efforts to beat the current COVID-19 crisis. In spite of the fact that polio still exists in underdeveloped countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, the cases have declined by more than 99 per cent in comparison with the 1980s, he included.