Aggressive plans for eradication in India
With no polio cases in six months, it would be easy for India to become complacent. However, the Government of India is determined more than ever to mount a final push to ensure that polio is eradicated from India.
An aggressive strategy to ensure the cessation of polio transmission was decided upon by the Indian Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) at their meeting on 13-14 July. The Government of India requested the group to provide recommendations on how to consolidate the gains towards interrupting poliovirus transmission and ensure that the job is finished. After reviewing recent supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) and surveillance data, the IEAG agreed on a set of measures designed to ensure that no polio cases are overlooked and no children are missed by vaccinators.
Each state has been called upon to produce a detailed risk analysis and an emergency plan to deal with any new cases, in line with recommendations from the Independent Monitoring Board’s most recent report. These risk analyses will also guide nation-wide planning – shining a light on any surveillance gaps and allowing supplementary immunization activities to focus on areas with gaps in immunity. Serosurveys will be conducted in the highest risk areas in August to provide definitive information on immunity status in the areas posing the greatest risks and ensure that any immunity gaps are filled. Further measures suggested by the IEAG include an aggressive schedule of SIAs running clear into the first half of 2012.
The IEAG also called upon the Government of India to expand surveillance. Plans to expand environmental surveillance into Kolkata, West Bengal will be completed by end 2011 with further expansion in other high risk states recommended for 2012. Reviews of surveillance quality will continue, with the focus on improving sensitivity among migrant populations.
The Government of India pledged its ongoing support at the IEAG meeting and vowed to do whatever it takes to finish off the virus. This support will be crucial as India now heads into the high season for polio transmission. Several religious festivals will also be held in the coming months, leading to high levels of population movement and creating the potential for the disease to spread. The IEAG and the Government of India are working hard to put the plans in place to deal with any new cases and put a stop to polio transmission in India for good.