Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In the news: First bivalent polio vaccine being tested in India

The world's first bivalent vaccine - that will protect children against both P1 and P3 strains of the polio virus - is being tested in India.

Around 900 newborn children in Indore, Chennai and Pune have already been given two doses of the oral bivalent vaccine (BOPV).

Scientists at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) want to see whether the bivalent vaccine, manufactured by Panacea, provides as much immunity to children as the present day vaccine of choice -- monovalent oral polio vaccine (MOPV).
Blood samples of children in trial have already been collected. Being analyzed by the Enterovirus Research Centre in Mumbai, the final results on whether BOPV can be an alternative to MOPV will become clear by April.

In 2008, India recorded 549 polio cases of which 68 were caused by the P1 strain and 481 were P3 infections. In 2007, India recorded 874 cases of polio.

P1 is the most dangerous form of poliovirus as it can cause huge outbreaks and travel long distances. P1 accounted for 95% polio cases in the country till 2006. P1 causes paralysis in one out of every 200 children compared to P3, which causes paralysis in one out of every 1,000 infections.

Source, TNN

Friday, March 6, 2009

Polio: A match abandoned or battle lost ?

Polio: A match abandoned or battle lost ?

The world may have decided to eradicate polio in the 80s but India still remains one of the four countries still affected by the Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in the world besides Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Though our country harbours only two types of Polio virus P1 and P3, it accounted for 549 cases in 2008. This has left the whole world worried and has forced us to rethink where we could have gone wrong in the past.
Despite an intensified push on polio eradication programme, India has not been able to entirely eradicate polio because of its large population density, poor environmental sanitation, prevalence of other viruses, the climate and lack of adequate infrastructure to ensure cent percent immunization coverage in far flung areas of the country.
The battle against polio is far from over as new cases of polio have been detected in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi in the first quarter of 2009 already. Mostly migrant populations have been at the receiving end of lately, having missed immunization while on the move.
Polio affects the poorest sections. The polio virus thrives – and the polio vaccine is incapacitated – in unhygienic and unsanitary conditions. That is why, as per a report in Science journal, Indian children tend to receive 10-15 doses of the Oral Polio Vaccine, when doctors recommend no more than three
When Bill Gates came to India and supported the cause for polio, he had made a very deep commitment indeed. In his words the country has to improve the health system in general, have the communities involved in delivering services, getting vaccines out and so on.
It is heartbreaking to note that that the medical community has been in many ways less than fully behind the initiative that could easily have safeguarded many more children from life threatening paralysis that they didn’t deserve. As far as mobilization is concerned both parents and leaders have been slow to rise up for the cause of polio immunization. In all fairness to the parents, many people who show up to vaccinate their kids do not know why they are there nor they do not know what the right kind of vaccination is. And this is what separates India from the developed countries who have completely eradicated polio and are adopting new strategies like IPV to prevent another recurrence of this nasty disease.
The only way we can go out and put and end to polio is by getting a movement behind this that originates at the very basic level, in every home. We have all witnessed how Swabhiman, a modest civil society brought to the fore stories of hope – the scientist, the public leader or the cricketer who fought off polio to still leave a mark. There is a need for more such civil society initiatives who can lend a voice to India’s polio victims, articulating their rights and attempts to be an information resource on polio for affected people and the public at large.
Polio has lived with us perhaps as long as donkey years. So it has adapted to it and is going to hang with us for sometime. The traditional leadership, the political leadership and the medical community leadership have to stand on the same platform to rip this unwanted weed from its roots. It is one issue we cannot afford to turn a blind eye. We certainly have a long way to go and much more to address if we have to challenge one of the biggest public health challenges of our time – that of making India a polio-free country.