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New Delhi : President of India Ram Nath Kovind launched the Pulse Polio Programme for 2021 on January 30, 2021, by administering polio drops to children less than five years old at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the presence of Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan and Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare.

The President and First Lady  Savita Kovind administered polio drops to children on the eve of the Polio National Immunization Day on January 31, 2021 (Sunday), also popularly known as Polio Ravivar. Around 17 crore children of less than 5 years of age will be given polio drops as part of the drive of Government of India to sustain polio free status of the country.

The countrywide drive will be supported by about 24 lakh volunteers, 1.5 lakh supervisors and many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), WHO, UNICEF, Rotary etc. Healthcare workers will be visiting as many as 2 crore households to ensure that no child is left without the protection of the polio vaccine.

Speaking at the launch event, Dr Vardhan expressed deep gratitude to the President and the First Lady for their kind presence particularly at the time of COVID pandemic to highlight India’s commitment to protect all the children of India from all vaccine preventable diseases. He reminisced his personal journey of leading the fight against Polio as the Health Minister, Delhi Government, when India accounted for 60% of all Polio cases globally.

“The strategy of Pulse Polio Immunisation Programme was conceived in December 1993 and it was rolled out from October 2, 1994, when the first child was immunised against Polio as part of this programme. Almost 12 lakh children were immunised in a single day at around 4,000 centres. In 1995, seeing the visible impact of the Pulse Polio Programme in Delhi, this was replicated at the national level. A year later, several countries of South East Asia region of WHO emulated the strategy and implemented similar programmes. Even in Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela launched ‘Kick Polio out of Africa’ campaign,”Dr Vardhan recollected.

Cherishing the success of the programme, Dr Vardhan said, “Before the start of the programme, India had 60% caseload of Polio worldwide. With the last case of Polio reported in Howrah on  January 13, 2011, the country has been free of Polio for a decade now.”

The Union Health Minister applauding India’s accomplishments along with the precautionary measures that should hence be taken said, “‘Polio-free certification’ of the entire South-East Asia Region of WHO including India on March 27, 2014, was a huge accomplishment in the history of India and Global Public Health. However, we need to remain vigilant and maintain the population immunity against polio with sensitive surveillance till global polio eradication happens. We all know that poliovirus is still circulating in other parts of the world including our neighbouring countries which may re-infect us. Pakistan and Afghanistan of the Eastern Mediterranean Region of WHO are still reporting Polio cases.”

The Health Minister also appreciated the efforts of State Governments and the supporting organizations like WHO, UNICEF and Rotary International etc., for strengthening the efforts of the Government not only for polio programme but also for other initiatives in immunisation. He also applauded the efforts of the thousands of volunteers, frontline workers, and health officials across the states for their tireless efforts in keeping the country polio-free.