Polio-free India Now Determined to Eliminate Measles, Tetanus
Laying emphasis on strengthening of routine immunisation, Health Min Ghulam Nabi Azad said the lessons learnt from success of polio campaign could help eliminate measles-related child deaths and neonatal tetanus from the country.
In his valedictory address at the two-day Polio Summit in New Delhi on Sunday, Azad said there has to be continued vigil and effective emergency preparedness as India cannot afford to let its guards now on the polio virus.
"Emboldened by our progress in polio, we are confident that we can achieve elimination of measles related child deaths. We also now wish to completely eliminate neonatal tetanus in India and are moving towards it. Some of our learnings and lessons from the Polio programme could prove to be extremely useful in accomplishing these tasks," Azad said.
The Minister laid stress on immunisation and said "strengthening routine immunisation is an imperative if we wish to sustain our gains in polio and guard ourselves against both distant and international importations."
He said, "We have declared 2012, the year of the intensification of Routine Immunisation. We intend to accelerate routine immunisation activities from 1st April itself through special immunisation drives, with a special focus on 207 districts recording low routine immunisation coverage."
The minister also reaffirmed India's commitment to funding the Polio programme and said it willing to lend all possible support for global eradication of polio.
Azad said with increased public investments in health from domestic resources India required "catalytic and technical support" from its various partners in helping eradicate many diseases.
He urged Rotary International, WHO, UNICEF, CDC, Gates Foundation, GAVI and other partners to now work to provide impetus to routine immunisation and synergize polio eradication and Routine Immunisation strategies.
"I am confident that together we would be able to ensure that India not only becomes Polio-free but that all our children are fully protected against every preventable disease," he said.
Azad said that 26 million mothers and children have already been registered under the web enabled mother and child tracking system set up by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The system generates weekly work plans for the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives through SMS.
He informed that in 14 states where coverage is less than 80 percent, introduction of second dose of measles has been started. Our target is to cover more than 130 million children under this campaign.
The minister informed the gathering that President Pratibha Patil, who launches the annual National Pulse Polio round, has conveyed her personal greetings and commendation on the public health milestone that has been achieved with WHO's decision to take India off the list of countries with active endemic wild poliovirus transmission.
The two-day Summit emphasised perseverance, innovation and accountability as the hallmarks of India's polio programme.
Azad said he would look forward to another polio summit after January 2014 when India would be declared Polio Free.