Celebrating 10 Successful Years of Polio-free India


This year commemorates a decade since India achieved a remarkable milestone: the eradication of polio—a monumental triumph in the nation’s public health history.

For years, India was anticipated to be the final bastion against the debilitating disease of polio. Yet, through 23 years of relentless nationwide campaigns spearheaded by countless volunteers and healthcare workers, who diligently vaccinated millions of children in even the most remote corners of the country, India surpassed these daunting projections.

On March 27, 2014, India received the prestigious designation of being officially certified as polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO). This achievement was made possible through a tireless and adaptable vaccination campaign spanning several years, reaching every corner of the vast nation and affording millions of children protection against a virus that once paralyzed over 350,000 individuals globally each year at its peak.

Today, polio cases have plummeted by over 99% since 1988, with the virus now endemic in just two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

India’s success in immunizing such a vast populace against polio stands as an extraordinary accomplishment. With a population of 1.4 billion, India posed significant challenges in eradicating the wild poliovirus due to its mode of transmission, inadequate surveillance methods, and numerous inaccessible communities.

Children were often left unvaccinated, facilitating the virus’s spread within communities. Many public health experts, either raised in India or engaged in the country’s vaccination initiatives, recall how pervasive polio once seemed, making its eradication appear dauntingly improbable.

“During my childhood, it was common to notice a neighbour’s child missing from our cricket games, only to later discover they were exhibiting polio-like symptoms,” recounted Dr. Ananda Sankar Bandyopadhyay, presently serving as the deputy director of the polio team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The threat of polio was palpable during those times.”

Despite these formidable challenges, India defied the odds, largely owing to sustained collaboration among diverse stakeholders, including volunteer vaccinators, public health experts, international organizations, the private sector, and the Indian government. In 2011, the country recorded its last case of polio.

As we commemorate the 10-year anniversary of India’s polio-free certification, Global Citizen engaged with public health experts to discuss the ongoing efforts to vaccinate every child in the country, alongside the broader implications of India’s campaign for global polio eradication endeavours.

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