New Delhi: India on Thursday touched a milestone of being polio-free for one whole year. The lone case of polio in 2011 was detected in a two-year-old girl in Panchla block of Howrah district in West Bengal.

"We are excited and hopeful and at the same time, vigilant and alert," said Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. He said there is no room for complacency and there was need to ensure no case of polio infection was reported for the next three consecutive years for India to celebrate eradication of poliomyelitis.

The Minister noted that progress was remarkable considering that in 2009, India with 741 cases, accounted for nearly half the global cases.

"This giant leap towards polio containment in a short span of two years is an endorsement of India’s tireless and persistent efforts.

"India has set an example with the highest level of political commitment to the programme which reflects in its resource allocation, continuous efforts to identify and reach out to the most vulnerable children with tailored strategies for maximum reach, optimum use of available vaccines under the guidance of top national and international experts, an extra- ordinary communication strategy and strong partnership," he said.

India has spent more than Rs 12,000 crore on Pulse Polio Programme. It took a lead in introducing bivalent polio vaccine (bOPV) in January 2010. Despite global shortage of both bOPV and trivalent Polio vaccine, India tapped domestic market for timely supply of vaccine to ensure pulse polio rounds without interruptions.

The lone case of polio in 2011 in Howrah is an example of rapid response – with the first immunization round being held within seven days and three rounds in seven weeks. In contrast, a case the same time in 2010 in Murshidabad saw the first immunization response in five weeks and three rounds spread over 17 weeks. The rapid and intense response in Howrah helped stop polio transmission and no other case was reported.

(Agencies)