NEW DELHI: India’s Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan has offered assistance to Pakistan’s government in its fight against the crippling poliovirus.
Dr Vardhan pointed out that though India was polio-free now, there was always the danger of the virus resurfacing as Pakistan accounts for 85% of the world’s polio cases. He said it was imperative the two countries cooperated to permanently eliminate this threat.
“We have extended cooperation to Pakistan in the past as well. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has issued some reasonable statements about rooting it out and we want to assure him of our support,” Dr Vardhan said. Nawaz had announced a ‘National Emergency Action Plan-2014’ to take steps for polio eradication on a war footing.
“I have been through the plan and find that the script is perfect. Pakistan has resolved to set up monitoring cells at the grassroots.
They are also talking of involving social groups, a strategy which worked wonderfully in India,” the minister said.
Dr Vardhan said Pakistan could draw on the Indian experience and learn from the challenges that were faced while transforming India from a country with 60% of the world’s polio cases to a certified polio-free nation. “This particular model would stand Pakistan in good stead. Unless all stakeholders, most importantly its religious clergy, are involved, it would be impossible to achieve total polio eradication.”
Referring to the threat of the virus entering India from Pakistan and Afghanistan, Dr Vardhan said measures have been put in place at border crossings. These include vaccination for those travelling both ways and emergency response plans.
“The ministry will introduce the injectable vaccine in the immunisation programme next year — in line with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s action plan,” he added.