India builds on polio success to control measles

India is using its success in the battle against polio to make sure more children are immunized against other dangerous diseases like measles, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization.

It has been more than two years since a child became infected with polio in India, the result of intense polio vaccination campaigns held multiple times per year to vaccinate 172 million children annually. Health officials in India are using the lessons learned from the polio campaigns to target measles, a disease that killed approximately 56,000 children in India in 2011.

In November 2010, with help from the WHO, India launched a polio-style measles vaccination campaign in 14 high-burden states. Through two phases of vaccination, more than 102 million children were vaccinated. Health workers achieved between 87 percent and 90 percent vaccination coverage in 344 districts.

"The laboratory-based field surveillance network, which we are supporting, is providing vital assistance for measles control activities in the country," Nata Menabde, the WHO representative in India, said.

On a local level, the campaign has been a dramatic success in some areas. In the state of Gujarat, there were 1,000 measles cases in 2010. There were no measles cases reported in Gujarat in 2012.

"India is a good example of a large and diverse country with many health systems challenges," Hamid Jafari, WHO's director of polio operations and research, said. "This program demonstrates the impact that can be achieved by linking efforts to eradicate polio with those to improve routine immunization against a disease such as measles."