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Lessons Learned From India’s Polio Response Could Help Country Combat Other Diseases

“More than 400 signatories to [a scientific declaration urging the world to eradicate polio], hailing from 80 countries, believe polio eradication is achievable in large part because of the great gains India has made against the disease,” T. Jacob John, a retired professor of clinical virology at Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, writes in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog. “The scientific declaration endorses a new global polio eradication plan [that] provides a fully costed, realistic roadmap how to finish off polio,” he notes, adding, “It applies lessons learned from India for reaching zero polio cases while simultaneously preventing re-importation of the disease and switching to a new vaccine that wipes out even the risk of vaccine-related polio.” He continues, “As the rest of the world learns from India’s success, it is worth asking what else polio lessons can teach India.”

“Innovations developed to eliminate polio offer India unprecedented opportunities to get other life-saving vaccines and health interventions to the people that need them most,” John notes. “There are green shoots of hope that efforts previously directed at polio are driving broader health improvements,” he writes, adding, “Resources, workers and experience from the polio campaign, which reached the poorest and most marginalized communities in India, will be crucial for increasing routine immunization coverage and rolling back measles.” He states, “In uniting behind polio eradication, scientists are endorsing the urgency and feasibility of giving all children the health care they need and deserve,” concluding, “The energy, resources, technological innovations and strong partnerships we develop and foster for better health will be the true legacy of polio eradication” (4/13).