India’s fight against polio

Polio drop

K. Sankaranaryanan, right, governor of Maharashtra, India, administers the polio vaccine to a child held by Rotary Foundation Trustee Ashok Mahajan.

By Ashok Mahajan, Rotary Foundation trustee and a member of the Rotary Club of Mulund, Maharashtra, India.

I was deeply privileged and honored to be with the gov­ernor of Maharashtra, K. Sankaranaryanan, in his official residence to launch the National Immunization Day on 19 February.

This is not the first time I have been in such a forum, but this time it was special. Every year, I used to come back from such an event hoping to say, “We Rotarians have conquered polio.” And this year, for India, I was able to. 

The effort by The Rotary Foundation and Rotarians to bring all the groups together and overcome the skepticism of those that said it couldn’t be done has been truly remarkable.

The year that has just gone by without a single incident of polio is a landmark in India’s decades-long fight against polio. 

In early 1985, people elsewhere thought that it was impossible for India to eradicate polio, which at that time was widespread in all the states. The irony is that we have not only stopped the transmission of this virus now, but are also in a position to export the expertise to the other three endemic countries; Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. 

Now it’s time to ensure that the polio virus does not come back. An innovative blend of technology and experience is available to us through our part­ners and we must not slacken our efforts in advocacy for routine immunizations.

The next five years will determine how successful we are in implementing our plans so that we get certification by the World Health Organization that India is a polio-free country. There seems to be no reason we cannot achieve our goal, with the leadership of visionaries like RI President Kalyan Banerjee and Past RI President Rajendra K. Saboo and the combined productivity of countless individual Rotarians. 

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