Virus v/s Us

Each human deserves a happy and healthy life. India achieved a milestone in this direction today in 2012 when it was finally able to defeat the deadly villain- Polio.
A child being given the OPV; Source: Public Domain

A child being given the OPV; Source: Public Domain

What all can be done in 2 days? 48 hours seem like a very short time and it’s difficult to imagine anything significant happening within this limited frame.

Within 2 days of National Immunization Day, health workers and volunteers managed to immunize 172 million children under the age of 5 in India.

After years of achieving this mind-boggling target, India was finally declared Polio free on 25th February 2012. All thanks to the healthcare workers who reach out to children not just at their homes, but at railways stations, construction sites, market places, and the farthest corner of the country.

Polio is a life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus that directly attacks the central nervous system. While most of the people infected by the virus succumb to the disease, those who survive are left disabled. Though the disease can be easily prevented by a vaccine, under-developed and developing nations had to struggle with it for a decade. Of the four countries that were classified as “polio-endemic” by WHO, one was India.

Tackling polio was not an easy job. With such a huge population and not-so-developed healthcare infrastructure, India had to gear up fast. The Brahmastra against polio turned out to be the frontline workers- vaccinators and community mobilizers. Despite the logistical issues, they made sure that every child under the age of 5 received the Oral Polio Vaccine, better known as, do boond zindagi ki.

Polio is not curable, but it is preventable. In this sense, these polio drops were essential in the fight against the disease. But, making vaccines accessible to all was only half the fight, the other part was creating awareness amongst people.

For this, the government came up with a robust communication system that tied hospitals directly with the community. Bollywood actors like Amitabh Bachchan were involved in the campaign in order to garner the attention of the masses. Apart from oral vaccination, infants and mothers were provided with other health services free of cost. Routine immunization, distributing ORS sachets, were allied with the whole plan to ensure the overall wellbeing of children.

The battle was prolonged and India had to persistently put efforts into this area. Finally, in 2012, health minister Gulam Nabi Azad declared our victory in the parliament when India’s name was removed from the Polio endemic list.

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