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Nov 17, 2009

Rotary stresses routine immunisation against polio

Rotary International District 3210 has emphasised the importance of routine immunisation to prevent polio in children even as it highlighted the benefits of the National Immunisation Days (NIDs) on which oral polio vaccines were administered to children in the 0-5 age group. The next NIDs would be observed on January 10 and February 7 next year.

Playing a major role in awareness generation ahead of the immunisation days and assisting the Government agencies with manpower and material across Coimbatore and other districts in western Tamil Nadu and Kerala, RI District 3210 has said in a release that routine immunisation was the best way to build individual immunity against the polio virus. But, unfortunately, the percentage of children who should get at least three doses of oral polio vaccine was much below satisfactory level.

Polio endemic States

In high polio endemic States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the number of immunised children was almost negligible.After small pox was eradicated, the Rotary initiated the movement against polio. But, routine immunisation under the Universal Immunisation Programme was not strong enough to help international health players in achieving the objective of eradicating poliomyelitis.Therefore, it required a strategy of mass immunisation and the National Immunisation Day concept was introduced.Parents could bring their children to several fixed and mobile booths for administering the oral vaccine to them.

Misconception

Under the Universal Immunisation Programme that stressed routine immunisation, five doses of the vaccine were mandatory for all children up to the age of two.Though optional, the first dose was administered on completion of or within one month after the birth of a child.The other four doses were to be administered at one-and-a-half, two-and-a-half, three-and-a-half and 18 or 24 months.But, the misconception about NIDs being a replacement had brought down coverage under routine immunisation.

With the passing of years, immunisation at the booths on NIDs lost its charm and the coverage dipped owing to complacency and fatigue.Though this was a serious setback, the pioneers of the polio eradication movement did not lose hope.

House-to-house immunisation

They came up with the strategy of house-to-house immunisation in 1999.Religious beliefs in States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had impeded coverage.

Religious leaders

The Rotary got the assistance of religious leaders in combating rumours about the programme and improving immunisation.Now, the four basic strategies against polio were: routine immunisation by providing every child aged under one with at least three doses of oral polio vaccine; conduct NIDs to cover children in the 0-5 age group; surveillance of acute flaccid paralysis to identify all reservoirs of wild polio virus transmission and extensive door-to-door drive in the final stages in focal areas where the virus transmission persisted, the release said.

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