India's "incredible success" in eliminating polio can be expanded to similar eradication programmes for other diseases like measles and can be replicated in other countries including Pakistan, health experts said today on World Polio Day 2016.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur in Paris today,Kimberly M Thompson, professor of preventive medicine and global health at University of Central Florida College of Medicine, said India is already capitalising on learning from its intensive country-wide polio vaccination programme to apply to other diseases.
"On World Polio Day, my message for India would be that it is great to see it accomplish polio elimination and that it has already started to use the platform for its fight against other diseases like neo-natal tetanus, measles and rubella.
"It would be great to see India take the lead in the region and show the same enthusiasm towards eliminating other diseases," said Thompson, who is also president of children's charity Kid Risk.
"It is very critical that India keeps its immunisation coverage very high and continues the support work because new children are born every day. There is already a national commitment and as India develops, the benefits will most definitely outweigh the costs of such programmes," she noted.
India had been declared polio-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2014 but its neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the last few endemic countries for the disease, thereby increasing risks in the region.
"Global polio eradication is about sharing experiences, not just between India and Pakistan but all countries need to come together. Pakistan can learn some very good lessons on how the last strongholds of the disease for India, in Bihar and western UP, were overcome with micro-planning and coping with migrant populations of the region," explained Dr Mufti Zubair Wadood, technical officer with WHO, at a World Polio Day event in Paris.
World Polio Day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the October 24 birthday of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis.
Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, which has no cure and can only be prevented through immunisation.
The worldwide strategy to eradicate polio is based on preventing infection by immunising every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.
"India has been successful in an incredible manner.
Looking to World Polio Day next year, we would be in a good situation if we are able to get rid of polio as soon as 2017.
"For that we must ensure any remaining pockets of resistance are identified and we have access to children everywhere for vaccination," said Joel Calmet, senior director, scientific and medical communications at Sanofi Pasteur.
The event in Paris was also marked by awards for activists on the ground in charge of creating awareness and disseminating the polio vaccine in the three remaining endemic countries - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
"My dream would be that by World Polio Day 2017, every last case of polio has been eliminated from Pakistan," said Latif Syed, one of the winners of the award.
The fight to end polio is led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which includes Rotary International, UNICEF, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.