On January 7, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) of the United States declared a global alert in the public interest. Gujarat is among the two places in India which had triggered WHO (World Health Organisation) warning about the return of VDPV2 (Vaccine-Derived Type 2 Poliovirus). Hyderabad on Telangana is the other Indian city where the virus has been said to make a comeback.
The WHO had warned the government of Gujarat a few months back about the spread of the virus. Despite the alerts, Gujarat has been silent. The government of Telangana had declared a ‘global emergency’ in June 2016 after the wild type 2 poliovirus was detected.
Telangana also had 2 lakh vaccines flown in from Geneva, Switzerland to immunise three lakh children in Ranga Reddy districts and Hyderabad as a preventive measure.
“500 samples were taken from the sewerage lines in Ahmedabad, and few samples had tested positive for the virus,” says JP Gupta, Gujarat Health Commissioner, as reported by The Times of India.
The samples collected on August 30 in Ahmedabad tested positive for Sabin-like type 2 poliovirus. This virus was detected four months after the Health Department of the State was asked to ensure a switch from the Trivalent Oral Poliovirus Vaccine to the Bivalent Oral Poliovirus Vaccine.
Despite the warnings, the detection of the vaccine-derived type 2 virus in the sewerage indicates that tOPV was still being used in the hospitals and by the medical practitioners.
In the test search in Ahmedabad, two tOPV vials were found at a retailer of the private vaccine, and 11tOPV vials were found at eight private clinics. The vials had expiry dates ranging from December 2016 to November 2017.
“There may have been some old stocks of the Trivalent Oral Poliovirus vaccines. The government had destroyed all of those vaccines,” said JP Gupta.
The samples were tested by WHO team. Dr Disha Patel of BJ Medical College, NP Jani for the Gujarat Government, had been coordinating the vaccine withdrawal.
Polio is an infectious viral disease that leads to permanent paralysis. It cripples more than fifty thousand children in the country each year. The problem is not with the vaccine itself but the low vaccination coverage. The Central Government has only achieved 70 percent immunisation coverage.
In June 2016, the Government declared India to be polio-free. This raises the question as what is the value of this polio-free certification when nearly fifty thousand children fall prey to this disease every year.
The Logical Indian request the government of the concerned states to take immediate steps to help curb polio.