Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Challenges to polio free certification

Polio theme issue 82(1)

As we stride towards archiving Poliomyelitis, I take a special pride in recognizing this achievement and also use this bulletin to express certain challenges we faced in the process of achieving this. We have come a long way ever since the conception of the resolution to eradicate poliomyelitis, in 1988-World Health Assembly. The journey was demanding and challenges were many. Besides understanding the course of disease, viral activity, logistic constraints, limitations in financial and human resources, maintenance of cold chain and understanding the viral strains, the difficulties also comprised of social aspects and attributes in different regions. While working as a part of the Integrated Pulse Polio Immunization team in the South East Asia Region (SEARO), in a remote district in Rajasthan, India, the team encountered a specific obstacle towards Pulse Polio immunization.

It was a widely prevalent belief in the rural folks of this region that Polio vaccine drops were not intended to eradicate Polio, but it was an effort by the Government to make their children ‘sterile’. It was held by the villagers that in an effort to curb the population, their children are being given some kind of sterility drops. It was extremely difficult to convince the masses that it was actually for their children’s good. At times, no words would convince them. On multiple occasions, I had to take the oral Polio drops myself to convince them. Understandably, their misconception originates from the attempts by the Indian Government in the yester years to promote mass sterilization procedures (vasectomy and tubal ligation) to curb the population. It certainly is a distinction that we have emerged out triumphant and soon we can hope to declare and certify a Polio free world. I must mention that it certainly was worthwhile to self-administer hundreds of doses of Polio vaccine to eradicate the myth and the menace alike.

Deepak Asudani MD Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, Metropolitan Hospital Center, New York, NY. USA Email: asudani@aol.com