New Delhi: With India remaining polio free for five years now, the government today said that it plans to switch to bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) from its present trivalent version in "some months" even as President Pranab Mukherjee launched the country wide Pulse Polio programme for 2016 on the eve of National Immunisation Day.
Union Health Minister J P Nadda who was present when the President launched the programme by administering polio drops to children at the Rahstrapati Bhawan, said that the switch will be done in a globally synchronized manner.
Trivalent OPV contains live and weakened versions for all the three types (1, 2 and 3) of wild polio while the bivalent vaccine will contain type 1 and 3.
Type 2 of wild polio virus has been eradicated worldwide long time back.
India has already introduced injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) into its routine immunization programme along with oral polio vaccine (OPV) from November last year.
In the first phase, IPV has been introduced in Assam, Gujarat, Punjab, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
"We are also planning for switch from trivalent OPV to bivalent OPV in some months in a globally synchronized manner," Nadda said.
Meanwhile, under the Pulse Polio programme for 2016, around 17.4 crore children under five years will be given polio drops.
"Polio-free status for five years is a treasure for all of us. India has been now validated for Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus elimination in May 2015 well before the global target date of December 2015.
"This is a monumental achievement in the country's efforts to achieve universal healthcare and address health inequities," Nadda said.
The Health Minister noted that to provide double protection to children and securing gains of polio eradication, government has introduced the IPV into its routine immunization program along with oral polio vaccine.
Nadda said that as polio is now endemic in only Afghanistan and Pakistan, the world is at the last stage of polio eradication.
"In order to mitigate the risk of importation, the immunity against polio infection is maintained through National and Sub National Polio rounds along with sustained high quality polio surveillance.
"We are vigilant and that is the reason we are conducting continuous polio vaccination at the international borders with India," the Health Minister said.
He said that a travel advisory has also been issued as per WHO guidelines to vaccinate all travellers who are travelling between India and eight other countries - Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
He said that an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) is in place under which Rapid Response Teams (RRT) have been formed in all states and UTs to respond urgently to any
importations of polio virus.
The Union Health Minister also applauded efforts of the thousands of volunteers, frontline workers, health officials across the states and development partners for their efforts in keeping the country polio-free.