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India committed to eradicate polio: Azad


New Delhi: India is committed to eradicating polio from the country and several initiatives are being taken to prevent the highly infectious disease from spreading, union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

Azad made the comments Friday at a function in Chicago where he was presented with the Polio Champion Award by Rotary International in recognition of efforts towards the eradication of polio.

Azad was conferred this award last year too.

“I want to re-affirm India’s commitment towards polio eradication,” said a statement by Azad, issued here Saturday.

This year, only one polio case has been reported in the country so far, compared to 741 cases in 2009 and 42 in 2010.

Azad said vaccination is one of the most cost effective public health interventions as it provides direct and effective protection against preventable morbidity and mortality.

India runs one of the world’s largest immunisation programmes in which around 26 million children born every year are covered, he said.

While India has been able to eliminate type 2 strain of polio, it has yet to wipe out the type 1 and 3 strains.

Azad said they have introduced bivalent vaccine since January 2010 and which has resulted in significant success.

He also said they have prepared an emergency preparedness and response plan, which will be put in action in case more cases are reported.

“It will be treated as a public health emergency,” he added.

India has spent approximately $240 million for the polio programme since the beginning of the 11th plan (2007), Azad added.

The award is given by Rotary International since 1995 to recognize governments and world leaders who have made outstanding contribution toward the goal of eradicating polio.

The award is in recognition of the efforts made by India and Azad’s role in particular towards eradicating the debilitating disease.