Feature Childhood Immunisation

Added benefits of polio eradication

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3378 (Published 07 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3378
  1. Patralekha Chatterjee, journalist
  1. 1New Delhi, India
  1. patralekha.chatterjee{at}gmail.com

India’s successful control of polio has yielded a bonus for the country’s public health system by helping to push up childhood vaccination rates, writes Patralekha Chatterjee

In 2012 India achieved a major landmark—a year without a new case of polio—leading to its removal from the list of countries in which the disease is endemic. If the 11 countries of South East Asia remain polio-free for another year, the Regional Certification Commission, an independent body of public health experts, will certify the region as polio-free in February 2014.

The government funded polio programme has depended on “microplans,” which set out the details of vaccination coverage for populations in remote and poor areas with scant access to healthcare services. The polio microplans include the geographical areas to be covered each day, names of staff, and logistics. The data the teams collect, such as names and details about the smallest hamlets with five to ten houses and details of family members, are invaluable for public health practitioners and are now being used to boost routine immunisation, a key to better health for millions of children. The polio microplans captured every family with a newborn baby and the door to door visits helped establish a relationship between the marginalised sections of the population and those living in isolated settlements and the health system.

According to the most recent nationwide statistics, 61% of Indian children aged 12-23 months between November 2009 and January 2010 were fully immunised against all diseases in the national vaccination schedule.1 But differences in immunisation coverage among states persist. In the same period, Bangladesh had fully vaccinated 82% of its children aged up to 2 years.2 The Indian government declared 2012-13 to be the “year of intensification of routine immunisation,” applying the lessons learnt from polio and introducing state …

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