Minister unhappy with polio programme, wants review

March 6th, 2008 - 2:28 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss

New Delhi, March 6 (IANS) Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss is unhappy with the polio programme and wants a review of it as the number of paralytic cases due to the disease continues to rise with 106 children falling prey so far this year. “We are not able to get rid of polio despite taking a number of steps. All the measures we have taken are on the advice of international experts, WHO and Unicef, but we are still not able to control it,” Ramadoss told IANS.

The health minister said he wants a thorough review of the National Pulse Polio Programme to find out where they are going wrong.

“We are planning to review the programme. We are very concerned about the number of cases we keep on getting each year,” he said.

The 108 cases this year by the end of February is far higher than the 38 cases reported during the first two months of 2007.

In all, India recorded 864 polio cases in 2007 compared to 676 cases the previous year.

The health minister said though the polio Type I virus, which is the most virulent and spreads fast, has shown signs of decline, the Type III virus is on the rise. The Type II virus was eradicated globally by 1999.

“Polio is polio. A child suffers from one strain or the other,” Ramadoss added.

He also remarked that the money allotted in the current budget to fight polio is Rs.10.50 billion, in comparison to the Rs.13 billion given last year.

India has taken measures to fight polio as per the advice of the India Expert Advisory Group (IEAG), he said. The experts, who meet twice every year, have been repeatedly advising the government to first tackle the Type I strain as it spreads fast.

But the vaccination for Type I means a rise in the number of Type III cases, the strain that has affected 89 children in Bihar so far.

By this February end, Bihar had reported 89 cases, while Uttar Pradesh reported 15 and Haryana one.

Only Delhi reported one Type I case, he said.

Ramadoss said Bihar has emerged as the hotbed of Type III polio cases. “I am planning to visit Bihar soon,” he added.

The health minister said there were 30,000 migrants from Bihar living in Tamil Nadu and the authorities are verifying whether their children had taken the vaccine for polio.

To wipe out the Type III strain, the government is planning a Pulse Polio round in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and parts of Haryana on March 30.

Both WHO and Unicef help the government in carrying out the polio immunisation programme. WHO monitors and implements the programme.

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