This week marked the three-year anniversary of India’s being polio-free. Once viewed as one of the biggest challenges in polio eradication, significant improvements in public health, education and vaccination programs have helped India reach this developmental milestone.

A densely populated country of more than one billion people, India was considered one of the toughest places to tackle the polio endemic. In 2009, India reported 741 polio cases,   comprising nearly half of the world’s polio cases. Two years after this peak level, India saw its last reported case of wild polio on January 13, 2011.

To combat this endemic, India has made vast improvements to its infrastructure, which has advanced public health measures beyond polio eradication. These changes allowed India’s poorest and most rural populations access to vaccinations. Innovative approaches were taken, such as targeting families on trains and accessing the vast rural area of India by foot to deliver vaccinations. They are now being used to tackle other diseases through immunization, such as measles.

The polio eradication efforts also used social mobilizers to educate people on the subject, working with religious leaders to reach parents, specifically targeting the importance for children’s health. Today, they are using these education techniques in counseling pregnant women on breastfeeding and providing newborns with necessary immunizations.

A National Immunization Day has been implemented for further awareness and progress. Each day consists of vaccine doses, vaccinators, vaccine carriers, and supervisors and hundreds of thousands of people mobilizing worldwide to eradicate polio completely by 2018. Past cases provide proof that as long as polio exists, it remains a threat everywhere. A success story, India continues to build its own immunization campaign. Giving hope and providing successful measures to eradicate polio to the three remaining polio-endemic countries: Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

Maris Brummel

Sources: Polio Eradication, UNICEF, Polio Eradication
Photo: India Ink