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Anti-polio drive deferred but no need to worry, say doctors.

Polio or poliomyelitis is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus which spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis.

Though doctors assured that the decision will not lead to resurgence of polio, a section of medical experts warned that further gaps in polio immunisation may diminish the herd immunity in society.

The upcoming mass Covid-19 immunisation programme was clashing with the anti-polio drive which would have put additional pressure on already overworked health workers. Taking note of this, a decision to defer the polio vaccination was taken, providing some breathing space to health workers.

“From Saturday, around 130,000 healthcare workers will start Covid-19 vaccination. Along with this, managing polio vaccination would have been troublesome and would have led to improper and incomplete door-to-door immunisation,” said an officer from BMC’s immunisation programme. “So, it’s better to wait rather than doing shoddy work,” he added.

Even last year, the programme got affected due to the outbreak of the pandemic. “When the pandemic started, a large number of migrants returned home and there were restrictions on movement of people. As a result, many children missed their polio doses,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, executive health officer of Mumbai civic body.

While skipping polio dose is likely to raise concern among parents about the safety of their infants, doctors said the vaccine given in the polio programme is just an additional shot to maintain herd immunity in the society. “Presently, we are in the mop up phase of the polio disease after announcing the eradication in 2014...The door-to-door polio vaccination programme is deferred due to the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive. But the resurgence of polio is extremely unlikely as a reasonable amount of children may have already gained herd immunity,” said Dr Hemalata Arora, senior consultant, internal medicine and infectious diseases, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vile Parle.

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