Dr. Sanjay Roy
    Poliomyelitis, as polio is scientifically known, is an acute viral infection of human intestine. But it may also effect the nervous system in about 1% and cause paralysis to any part of the body, or even result in the death of the patient.

When an individual susceptible to exposure of infection gets the disease, one of the following may occur:

    Polio has disappeared from the American and the European continent as a result of effective vaccination efforts. The World Health Organization (WHO) seeks to replicate this experience in the developing countries also by promoting Pulse Polio Immunization Programme. Under this, the strategy to be followed is simple—administer polio vaccine to all the children in the risk zone, so that the disease can be eliminated once and for all.


    This disease affects mainly children who are vulnerable to the infection of polio by spreading from one child to another. If one child carries the germs of this disease, then he may also transfer this disease to another child. It spreads in unhygienic conditions, and is therefore likely to effect (a) people living in unsanitary conditions, and (b) children who are weak, or are suffering from malnutrition or have low body resistance. There is no sure and effective cure for polio, therefore the only strategy can be to eradicate it completely.

    Until now vaccination was done to individual child, as and when the parents brought the child for vaccination. But this was clearly ineffective. In the year 1990, for example, 10,400 children got infected by the polio virus, (G.o.I. Annual Report, Health and Family Welfare). Year round routine immunization programme is bound to have low success in country like India with high population density, and poor sanitation.

The strategy which is now being promoted by the WHO and the Indian government, has the following salient features:

Simultaneous administration of vaccine;
Oral administration of the vaccine;
Covering 100% children below 3 years of age.

    When all the children are given the vaccine at the same time, the polio virus which is normally active in the intestine of the children, are replaced by the non-disease causing harmless virus in the vaccine. If almost all the children are freed from the virus at any given time, then this disease can not survive because this virus cannot live outside the human body for long.

Oral vaccination

    Oral vaccination is best suited for ending this crippling disease because (a) it is easy to administer, (b) it is cheap, (c) it then reaches the intestine directly and prevents the multiplication of disease causing polio virus, and (d) when the vaccine gets flushed out of the child with the stool, it may spread to other children also, who may not have been immunized. Strategies for polio eradication in India:

    Pulse polio programme began on 9th December 1995, when it reached 8 crore 78 lakh children all over India. Six weeks later, the second dose of the vaccine was administered and about 9 crore 36 lakh children were immunized. This programme has since become an annual feature. The recent round of immunization was conducted on 6th December 1998, in which 13 crore 36 lakh children were immunized.

    If public interest and enthusiasm for this programme can be sustained, then it will not be long before this disease becomes history.