New Delhi: It's a rare moment of pride for India as it celebrates two years of being polio-free on Sunday. The drive against polio is considered to be one of the most effective public health campaigns launched in India and has started yielding positive results.
Two-year-old Rukhsaar from Howrah in West Bengal remains the last polio case detected in India in 2011. "I regret not getting my child vaccinated. Now, I tell other people not to make the same mistake," says Rukhsaar's father Abdul Shah.
In the last few years, India has mobilised 24 lakh volunteers and 1.5 lakh front line workers in an anti-polio effort that costs the government Rs 1,000 crore every year. More than 17 crore children are immunised in each national round of polio vaccination - held six to eight times a year.
But experts warn against complacency - there's still a risk of the virus travelling to India from across the border. "Pakistan is still not polio-free and there is always a chance of importing polio to India. So, this is no time to grow complacent now," says WHO India representative Nata Manabde.
While Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are the only countries which have to still work on anti-polio efforts, India needs just one more year to stay off the list. India, however, tops the world's list for child mortality and millions of children die from completely preventable conditions, like diarrhoea, and pneumonia. The Pentavalent vaccine, which prevents children five life-threatening diseases, is only available in three states in the country. So, what the Indian government can do now is an immediate boost to its routine immunisation program.