The 13th of January was a momentous day for India as the nation celebrated its third-year of being polio-free. The disease, which mainly affects children under the age of five was eradicated as a result of India’s successful immunisation program. The achievement is a mile-stone in the global battle against polio, which is remains endemic in three countries.
Three years might seem an odd anniversary for India to pay dividence too, but it marks the date after which the country can become officially polio-free. The power to award a region polio-free status belongs to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Set to convene in March, the WHO will decide if South-East-Asia has met with strict criteria to qualify as polio-free. The criteria, in short is as follows: “all countries in the Region need to not register a case of wild polio for 3 years in the presence of high quality surveillance”. If the met then India will join America, Western Pacific and Europe, the only other regions to have achieved the status.
Polio still remains endemic in Pakistan, Afganistan and Nigeria where problems such as political instability and poor sanitation impede total eradication. The problem is that these countries act as hotbeds from which infection can spread. This would prove disastrous for neighbouring countries whose populations aren’t sufficiently vaccinated. This is why India has announced plans to carry out 6 more polio campaigns in 2014 and 2015.
In order to ensure that advances continue to be made in the fight against polio, a rigorous approach must be adopted with regards to vaccinating populations at risk.