States failing on immunisation targets report polio cases

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy, IANS

New Delhi : States that are failing to meet polio immunisation targets are the ones reporting the highest incidence of the disease in India. That’s the message emerging from latest official data.

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As much as 95 percent of the polio cases in 2007 were from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. These states had failed to meet the government’s pulse polio immunisation programme (PPIP) targets.

Only 23 percent of the target set for PPIP countrywide was achieved during April-September 2007 even though the government wishes to eradicate the crippling virus by 2008, says a report of the statistics and programme implementation ministry.

In India, 170 million children under the age of five are supposed to be given polio drops on pulse polio days.

The findings say only 34 percent infants, numbering 8,782,988, were immunised during April-September 2007 in Andhra Pradesh against the target of 25,827,378. The state reported five polio cases last year while there were no cases in the two preceding years.

With 316 polio cases, Uttar Pradesh immunised only 40,020,524 infants, which was only 20 percent of the 195,558,172 target. In Bihar, with 244 polio cases in 2007, only 500,864 infants were given drops against the target of 114,723,566.

As per data compiled by the Rotary International’s India Pulse Polio programme wing, 590 cases were reported from various states last year and Andhra Pradesh (5), Bihar (244), Delhi (2), Haryana (6), Maharashtra (2), Rajasthan (3), Uttar Pradesh (316) and Uttaranchal (6) accounted for 584 of them.

Look at the achievements of these states on the PPIP front. Delhi immunised 13,331,521 infants against the target of 29,247,086 while Haryana gave polio drops to 7,263,695 infants against 26,437,223.

Maharashtra and Rajasthan covered 19,021,895 and 10,603,655 against the target of 80,628,970 and 57,668,737 respectively.

At the national level, against a target of covering over 430 million children only around 99.3 million infants were administered polio drops.

The few states that recorded ‘very good’ achievements by meeting 90 percent of the target or higher were Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Chandigarh.

“If PPIP is not effectively implemented over successive years, the polio virus cannot be eradicated. It is high time the government has a re-look at the whole immunisation programme,” Vijay Agarwal, one of the founder members of the pulse polio eradication team in Delhi and the country, told IANS.

Bihar had only 30 and 61 cases in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Only 29 cases were reported from Uttar Pradesh in 2005, which went up to 316 last year. Three cases were reported from Rajasthan in 2007, while two from West Bengal.

“Mere variation in number does not undermine the gravity of the problem. The present polio scenario is a strong pointer to the fact that the immunisation drive has got derailed,” said Harsh Vardhan, the man who scripted the pulse polio programme for Delhi first and the country later along with his team.

As per WHO guidelines, the polio virus will be considered eradicated only if no case is reported for three years after achieving the status of zero level. Thus no polio case should be reported till 2011 after achieving the zero level status for India.

Polio mainly affects children under the age of five. It is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus and mainly spreads from the faecal-oral route, invading the nervous system and paralysing the victim.