UN, India team up to vaccinate 165 million children in largest-ever anti-polio campaign
India is set to launch the largest-ever mass immunization campaign against polio – targeting 165 million children – to combat the largest polio epidemic in recent history, according to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).
When the campaign kicks off Sunday, vaccination teams of over 1.3 million volunteers and health workers, equipped with nearly 200 million doses of vaccine, will go house-to-house and work at booths in communities to reach every child under the age of five. To succeed, the teams will have to cover a country the size of Western Europe in six days, according to WHO.
“This is an extraordinary epidemic," said Dr. Daniel Tarantola, WHO’s Director of Vaccines and Biologicals, "It requires an extraordinary effort by a whole range of national and international partners.” He added that after some five years of progress, the agency is very focused on India, where stopping transmission will be a “monumental task.”
The campaign, the second of 2003, is to combat a growing polio epidemic that swept the northern part of the country last year. In 2002, the target year to stop poliovirus transmission globally, India was one of only two countries to see a significant rise in new cases – some 15,561 confirmed or 85 per cent of the worldwide total. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 173 million, accounted for 66 per cent of cases in the world.
“This campaign in February is exactly the kind of response necessary to protect the children of India, and indeed the world, from this devastating disease and tackle this final stage of eradication head-on,” Dr. Tarantola said.