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Covid surge prompts a month’s delay in Kolkata pulse polio drive

From February 27, vaccinators would visit houses and administer the polio drops to children

Subhajoy Roy | Published 14.01.22, 07:38 AM
The pulse polio vaccination would begin from February 27.

The pulse polio vaccination would begin from February 27.

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The pulse polio vaccination scheduled to begin from January 23 has been pushed back by over a month owing to the sharp rise in Covid cases across the state and the country, a senior state health department official said.

According to the new schedule, the pulse polio vaccination would begin from February 27 and continue for a week, during which vaccinators would visit houses and administer the polio drops to children.

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“The Union health ministry has communicated to us that the pulse polio vaccination would not be held from January 23. Instead it will be held from February 27. The nationwide sharp rise in Covid cases is the reason behind pushing back the programme,” said Asim Das Malakar, the family welfare officer of Bengal government’s health department.

Earlier, officials of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) had expressed apprehension about the number of vaccinators and teams needed to visit all homes in the city. The KMC conducts the pulse polio vaccination in Kolkata.

KMC officials told The Telegraph that every year services of their own vaccinators, accredited social health activists (ASHA) and nurses are used to administer the pulse polio vaccine doses. Some volunteers who take a short training to administer the doses are also hired.

“This time, many ASHAs, nurses and vaccinators are down with Covid. Besides, many families also have Covid. We were not sure how many people would have allowed an unknown person to go close to them,” said the KMC official.

“Vaccinators have to go very close to the child to administer the drops. In most cases, the mothers hold their child and naturally mothers would also come in close proximity. In the current situation, where the number of daily new infections have spiralled, this was going to be a difficult task.”

It is hoped that by February 27, the curve of rising infections would flatten or start to fall creating a more conducive situation for the pulse polio vaccination programme.

Till 2019, camps used to be held in ‘pulse polio vaccination week’ in strategic locations. But since the beginning of the pandemic, the camps have been discontinued to avoid crowding and two-member teams visit houses to find anyone in the vaccinable age group and administer the dose.

Any child up to 5 years can be administered the two-dose pulse polio vaccine.

Malakar said about 90 lakh children have to be administered the polio vaccine this year in Bengal. Some take it from private clinics and private hospitals. Many take it from government-run hospitals or KMC clinics on Wednesdays, the day for routine immunization, under which several vaccines are administered to children under the universal immunisation programme.

The week-long programme in February will be especially for those who did not take it from either private clinics or government-run units.

February’s vaccination will be a nationwide round.  Two sub-regional rounds in areas where the coverage needs to be increased after the national round will follow it, said a KMC official.

Last updated on 14.01.22, 08:32 AM
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