President Pranab Mukherjee launched the pulse polio immunization programme 2014 at the Rashtrapti Bhavan. Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Minister of State for Health Santosh Chowdhary were also present on the occasion.
Six small children were administered polio vaccine by Mukherjee.
In his address, Azad pointed out that in this round more than 17 crore children will be vaccinated. He also said that 23 lakh frontline workers and volunteers will fan out across the country to reach every child up to five years of age so that high immunity of children against the polio virus can be maintained.
Besides setting up 102 polio vaccination posts along international borders, it has been decided that any case of wild polio shall be treated as public health emergency, Azad added.
India has not recorded even a single case of wild polio in the last three years, which is a historic achievement, said Azad.
Narrating the journey India took to arrive to this feat, he said that as poliovirus transmission in some parts of the country was intense, experts believed that India was the most difficult place in the world to stop polio.
India however, accepted the challenge, he pointed out.
In 2010, India launched bivalent oral polio vaccine with President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the first drops of the new vaccine to the children.
Intense effort resulted in covering all children, no matter where they were. This also saw the lakhs of vaccinators braving difficult conditions to reach children in the remotest parts of the country, Azad stated.
Managers carefully mapped high risk habitations, particularly mobile and migrant populations, so that all under-served populations were reached, the minister pointed out.
He added, that this required close monitoring and door to door vaccination so that no household was missed.
Children were immunized on trains, in buses, in melas, in religious congregations and along the international borders. This was done again and again with never-say- die spirit, Azad said.
Azad stated that from a position when India had more than two lakh children getting crippled by polio each year, the country has come to a time in history where not a single child has suffered wild polio for the last three years.
This, he said, should be seen as a monumental victory.
"It has paved the way for India's formal certification by WHO as a polio free nation, he informed.
He thanked various partners such as the state governments, lakhs of supervisor and vaccinators, volunteers, WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, World Bank, USAID, DFID and many more who have made this achievement possible.