Home Science/Health Bill Gates meets PM, assures help to eradicate polio

Bill Gates meets PM, assures help to eradicate polio


New Delhi : Microsoft founder Bill Gates has assured India full support of his philanthropic foundation in the area of healthcare, especially to introduce injectible polio vaccine alongside the ongoing immunisation drive to eradicate the disease from the country.

Gates, who called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday, also discussed with him the areas of potential support between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the ministry of health and family welfare.

“The foundation has been providing grants for public health activities, notably in the areas of HIV-AIDS prevention and communication,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Gates, the co-chairman of the foundation, met Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss Tuesday to discuss the measures taken by the country to eradicate polio. A day later, he said there was need for new strategies.

“An expert committee is meeting next week to deliberate on new strategies, including the introduction of injectible polio vaccine (IPV). We express our commitment and support to the new strategy,” Gates told reporters here.

“The country will introduce IPV in certain areas (pockets of Bihar and Uttar Pradseh) where the disease’s prevalence is high,” Gates said.

For over a decade, India has been immunising children below five years of age through oral polio vaccine. The routine and special immunisation drives are taking place across the country to eradicate the disease.

He said, India is doing very well in its effort to eradicate polio and the “year 2009 will be pivotal” in this field.

Asked about the failure of India to eradicate the disease so far, Gates said: “I will not say the execution has failed. Health Minister (Anbumani) Ramadoss is a leader and I am sure the country will wipe out polio soon.”

The foundation has so far committed more than $400 million worldwide to support polio eradication efforts, with India among its recipients. In November last year, the foundation donated $100 million to Rotary India to fight polio over the next three years.

Gates said polio in India has been controlled to a large extent and the dreaded P1 polio cases have been reduced drastically.

“I think P1 can be controlled in 2009 and the (less virulent) P3 strains can be controlled in 2010.”

Gates, who has been funding various healthcare initiatives in the country, said that immunising 172 million children across the country in one round is a huge achievement.

“But there is some delivery problem,” he said and assured that the situation would be much better in the near future.

India is one of the four countries grappling to control the disease that affects children below the age of five. Till Oct 31, the country has reported 499 cases of polio this year, accounting for 35 percent of the cases reported worldwide.

Last year, the country reported 874 cases, over 90 percent of them from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.