Pulse Polio

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A child is being vaccinated on the occasion of Pulse Polio Day.
A 3-year-old in front of a Pulse Polio booth just after vaccination

Pulse Polio is an immunisation campaign established by the government of India to eliminate poliomyelitis (polio) in India by vaccinating all children under the age of five years against polio virus. The project fights poliomyelitis through a large-scale pulse immunisation programme and monitoring for polio cases.


In India, vaccination against Polio started in 1978 with Expanded Program in Immunisation (EPI). By 1984, it was successful in covering around 40% of all infants, giving 3 doses of OPV to each. In 1985, the Universal Immunisation Program (UIP) was launched to cover all the districts of the country. UIP became a part of child survival and safe motherhood program (CSSM) in 1992 and Reproductive and Child Health Program (RCH) in 1997. This program led to a significant increase in coverage, up to 95%. The number of reported cases of polio also declined from 28,757 during 1987 to 3,265 in 1995.

In 1995, following the Polio Eradication Initiative of World Health Organization (1988), India launched Pulse Polio Immunisation Program along with Universal Immunisation Program which aimed at 100% coverage.

Elimination of polio in India[edit]

The last reported cases of wild polio in India were in West Bengal and Gujarat on 13 January 2011.[1] On 27 March 2014, World Health Organization (WHO) declared India a polio free country, since no cases of wild polio had been reported in previous three years.[2]

As of mid-2015, only Afghanistan and Pakistan still have wild polio cases.

Key objectives[edit]

The Pulse Polio Initiative (PPI) aims at covering every individual in the country. It aspires to reach even children in remote communities through an improved social mobilisation plan.[3]

  • Not a single child should miss the immunisation, leaving no chance of polio occurrence.
  • Cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) to be reported in time and stool specimens of them to be collected within 14 days. Outbreak Response Immunisation (ORI) to be conducted as early as possible.
  • Maintaining high level of surveillance.
  • Performance of good mop-up operations where polio has disappeared.
  • India was declared polio free in 2014.[3]

Steps involved[edit]

  • Setting up of booths in all parts of the country.[3]
  • Initialising walk-in cold rooms, freezer rooms, deep freezers, ice-lined refrigerators and cold boxes for ensuring steady supply of vaccine to booths.
  • Arranging employees, volunteers and vaccines.
  • Ensuring vaccine vial monitor on each vaccine vial.
  • Immunising children with OPV on National Immunisation Days.
  • Identifying missing children from immunisation process.
  • Surveillance of efficacy.

Publicity was extensive, and included replacing the national telecoms authority ringtone with a vaccination day awareness message, posters, TV and cinema spots, parades, rallies, and one-to-one communication from volunteers. Vaccination booths were set up, with a house-to-house campaign for remote communities.[4]

2 million healthcare workers and US$2.3 billion in government funding went into the campaign.[5] It is estimated that global polio eradication would save more money than it has cost within a few years of polio's disappearance.[6]


Testing showed that three doses of vaccine was enough to protect children in developed countries, but it became obvious that this was not enough in some areas of India. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recommended eight to ten doses for each child. Children in some areas of India are weaker and often had diarrhoea, which reduced the efficacy of the vaccine. Open defecation and monsoon flooding and a lack of water treatment also made it easier for a child to swallow more polio virus. As a result, children with too few doses of vaccine were not fully protected and sometimes got polio. [4]

The eradication program therefore gave drops over and over again, to boost children's immunity higher and as a precaution against missed children. Few parents initially knew that the vaccination campaign was trying to eradicate the disease, so they did not understand the reasons for the increasing intensity of vaccination. The increasing frequency of the drops, and cases of polio among partially-vaccinated children, caused rumours that the drops did not work.[4]

July 30, 2013 - A nine-month-old boy from Navi Mumbai has tested positive for Vaccine- Derived Poliovirus (VDPV) type 2. This was the fourth such case recorded in the country in 2014.[7]

Many areas of India are remote and hard to access. People in some areas had had poor and caste-discriminatory treatment by government health authorities, which made them less willing to assist in the vaccination programme. The time demands of polio vaccination sometimes left health care workers with less time for other services. The absence of any free health services other than polio vaccination and contraception also lead to rumours that the drops caused infertility.[4]

Rumours about vaccinations varied by area, but clustered, so that there was a greater risk of a cluster of unvaccinated children. Some believed that vaccinating newborns, children who are ill, or previously-vaccinated children was not safe;[4] the last polio case in India was a girl who had not been vaccinated because she was sickly.[8] There were also rumours that the polio drops were made from the blood of pigs, dogs, or mice, or from pig fat.[9]

Poor participation of doctors and nurses, difficulty in maintaining and procuring vaccine, difficulty in procuring vehicles, and a lack of support from community members have all caused problems in the program,[10] as has fatigue at the length of the anti-polio campaign.[4]


The campaign was supported by organisations including the Indian federal and state governments, international institutions, and non-governmental organisations. It is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Actor Amitabh Bachchan volunteered with the campaign, filming TV and radio spots urging against complacency[4][11] and personally vaccinating children.[12]

The Indian and Afghan cricket teams have also supported their national and international polio eradication efforts.[13]


The Gujarat case[edit]

In 1998, in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, immunisation officers reported that 98 children out of the total of 2,000 missed the vaccine. Health workers were first prevented from coming to village. Later, when the booths were established and the program did start, lot of parents did not bring their children to the booth. According to them, children from their village developed polio-paralysis even after the immunisation.[citation needed]

The Bengal Case[edit]

Health officers who visited the village in West Bengal, saw utter discontent amongst the people as they stated that two children in a village in contracted the virus after the vaccine[citation needed]. In another instance, parents of a two-and-a-half-year-old child who developed cellulites in the heel were convinced that it had been caused by the vaccine that was given to their child a week before. The doctor who gave the vaccine was forced to pay the entire amount for the child’s treatment[citation needed].

See also[edit]


External links[edit]