With the outbreak of COVID- 19, the pulse polio immunization has come to a halt across the whole country. Despite the order given by the Central government in the month of April to ensure that the polio immunization continues, either of the states has not resumed or have done it unpredictably. The polio immunization is conducted in four to six rounds annually and it starts from the month of January.
States such as Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra, and West Bengal have completed their first round of polio immunization, and are yet, to begin with, the second round, whereas in Madhya Pradesh second round of immunization have started in some selected districts. While the delay was expected due to the pandemic outbreak of COVID- 19, the Centre had already asked the states to resume the immunization drive in April as it is an essential service.
The secretary of Ministry of Health And Family Welfare (MoHFW) had sent a letter to all the principal secretaries, chief secretaries, and administrators, stressing on the precautionary measures that are to be maintained and more on the need to maintain Non-COVID essentials services. According to the guidance note given by MoHFW, the services include reproductive, maternal, new-born and child- health, prevention and management of communicable diseases, treatment for chronic diseases to avoid complications, and addressing emergencies. Dr.Naveen Thacker, executive director of the International Paediatrics Association said in an interview with The Print, “Despite orders to start again the immunization programme, it is still not fully functional. However, possible it should start on a priority basis and the governments must analyze the risk versus benefits. We cannot afford to have another epidemic at the cost of one epidemic.”
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The primary reason why the immunization programme has not yet started are firstly the shortage of community workers, fear among health care workers over getting in contact with COVID- 19, issues over availability of PPEs and objection from village or panchayat heads in rural areas to allow health care workers to carry out the programme during the pandemic. According to WHO, in around 129 countries the disruption to immunization services might put 80 million babies at risk of getting infected with diseases like Diphtheria, Measles, and Polio.
State Report on Pulse Polio Immunization
Maharashtra the state with the highest number of COVID cases has kept polio immunization on halt, due to a shortage of staff. In West Bengal, the programme is likely to start this month. The mayor in charge of health in KMC said that pulse polio immunization will start in non-containment zones, which means the children inside containment zones will not have the access to the immunization drive, and Kolkata is likely to have 28 containment Zones currently. In Madhya Pradesh, the drive had not started yet, stated the Chief Medical Officer of Indore, but at the end of May, Indore had started of routine immunization programme for preventable diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio.
International Report on Pulse Polio Immunization
In Pakistan, almost 40 million children have missed polio in the month of April, after the cancellation of the nationwide vaccination campaign. Alongside Afghanistan, Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where Polio is still endemic. As a result of the pandemic outbreak 46 campaigns to vaccinate children against Polio have been suspended in 38 countries worldwide, mostly in Africa. Measles campaigns have also been suspended in 27 countries. Experts say that children need immunization before the age of 2. More than a dozen countries in Africa have reported polio outbreaks this year.