Is India Polio Free?

This week will mark the one-year anniversary of the last polio case in the second-most populous country.

Jan 12, 2012
Cristina Luiggi

Child gets oral dose of polio vaccineFLICKR, RAMESH_LALWANI

Tomorrow (January 13) will be one year since the last child infected with the poliovirus was reported in India. If no other cases turn up by this one-year mark, and if routine surveillance of sewage continues to test negative for wild polioviruses, India will be removed from the list of countries where polio is endemic—leaving only Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

It’s been a long, winding road to the potential eradication of the virus in India, which has invested around $2 billion in the effort as well as incredible manpower. The millions of babies born each year, for one, made vaccination campaigns a staggering task. "We have to get to these children, these newborns, with vaccine faster than the wild virus can get to them," Hamid Jafari, project manager for the World Health Organization's National Polio Surveillance Project, told Scientific American. “It’s a race against the virus.”

Furthermore, widespread malnourishment, poverty, and poor sanitation challenged the effectiveness of the vaccine. Where it would only take around three doses in well-nourished, healthy children, those living in poor households would sometimes still get infected even after they’d been vaccinated more than 10 times.

If no more cases are indeed reported, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative might send out the official statement announcing the eradication sometime by mid-February, Scientific American reported.