The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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High & low of polio drive

Sept. 14: The government managed to bring about 85 per cent of the targeted 9.5 million children to health camps for the sub-national polio immunisation programme today.

A pleased health secretary Asim Barman said only 71 per cent of the targeted children were vaccinated in the last programme. “Today’s drive went off well.” But in saying that, Barman skipped two sore points — one natural, the other a reminder that the drive is still misunderstood in rural Bengal.

Flood hit the programme in Malda and Murshidabad, the district with most polio victims. Information and cultural officer of South 24-Parganas Malabika Goswami was assaulted by a child’s family in Maheshtala block VIII, about 25 km from Calcutta, while feeding the vaccine to a baby.

Goswami reported the assault to additional district magistrate Manish Jain but vowed to be part of the next round of vaccination tomorrow.

District officials admitted that the vaccine could not be administered at Mirpara near Patharpratima, about 90 km from Calcutta, in the face of “stiff opposition” from residents.

The focus of the programme this time was South 24-Parganas, where 15 new cases were reported this year, and Murshidabad, where previous programmes had the least impact.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee unveiled the pulse polio programme in Murshidabad today. Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra and his deputy Pratyush Mukherjee were present in South 24-Parganas to oversee the drive.

Bhattacharjee said: “Earlier, all children could not be made part of the programme because of our inexperience. Now, the health department and district administrations, NGOs and religious leaders have joined hands. We hope to vaccinate every child.”

Eight-year-old Bittu Das from Ketugram in Burdwan, 250 km from Calcutta, was taken to the medical college and hospital there for tests to ascertain whether he indeed has polio. His body had shown signs of paralysis, said chief medical officer of health S.K. Sarangi.

Health officials will go door to door with the vaccine in the next two days.

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