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India offers to help Pakistan eradicate polio

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan administers polio vaccine to a child to mark the World Polio Day at Nirman Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday.
PTIHealth and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan administers polio vaccine to a child to mark the World Polio Day at Nirman Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday.

Islamabad can draw on our experience: Vardhan

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has offered help in polio eradication to the government of Pakistan.

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 per cent of the world’s polio cases.

He said it was imperative that the two countries cooperate because of this threat.

“In the past too we have offered Pakistan our cooperation. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has issued some reasonable statements about rooting it out and we want to assure him of our support,” he said. Mr. Sharif had announced a ‘National Emergency Action Plan-2014.’

“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 overcome to transform India from a country with 60 per cent 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, he said measures had been put in place at border crossings. These include vaccination for those travelling both ways to Pakistan 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.

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