India Polio Free: A World Health Breakthrough

India polio

In Uttar Pradesh in northern India, cases of polio were reported in 2010. Because of misconceptions, some parents are skeptical about the polio vaccine and other vaccinations. A Catholic Relief Services program informs parents of the benefits and encourages them to immunize their children. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

India – once considered the hardest place to eradicate polio – celebrates three years without a single “wild” case of the disease.

The milestone opens the World Health Organization to declaring India officially polio free.

India is now a case study for how to mount a successful disease response effort under the most complex circumstances. India’s triumph over polio is a significant public health achievement, leaving a lasting impact on children’s health in India and around the world.

Health officials say it’s now clear that the disease can be eliminated in even the most challenging of circumstances.

India’s success provides confidence, inspiration, and technical guidance for stopping polio in the three remaining countries where polio has never been stopped – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Capitalizing on India’s achievement to end polio globally and protect the health of children everywhere for generations to come should be a high priority for the global community.

Official WHO certification is set for late March and a high-level celebration is planned for 11 February. India’s third polio-free year provides an opportunity to recognize the importance of India’s achievement, highlight the power of vaccines and encourage continued political and financial support for polio eradication.

Worth noting: The few cases that did occur in India in the past 3 years were caused by a rare mutation of the weakened but live virus in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) that can cause paralysis. This happens to 1 out of every 2.7 million children receiving a first dose of OPV.

CRS works to eradicate polio as part of the CORE Group Polio Project.

Related CRS information

Battling Polio On the Streets of India

At the Crossroads in the Polio Wars

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