Washington, May 17 (IANS) Expected to be the hardest, polio eradication was made possible in India thanks to social mobilisation and mapping of houses refusing the vaccine, according to Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
“The two things that were done super well were social mobilization and mapping where the houses were,” Gates, who has made global health and, in particular, the total eradication of polio his top priority this year, said in a media interview published Friday.
“Dealing with refusals is a huge part of this,” he told the Washington Post. Usually there are 10 to 20 percent refusals, but rumours like that the US government uses vaccination campaigns to sterilise Muslim women lead to much higher refusals.
“When somebody would refuse to take the vaccine, they would mark it down and they would have either a political leader or religious leader come in and convince them,” Gates said.
Gates, who is in Washington to talk to members of Congress about his mission, believes wiping out a disease like polio is “completely achievable. Perhaps even by the end of 2013”.
The Bill Gates Foundation, he said, was also able to cut down the childhood death rate due to diarrhoea, respiratory disease and malaria – “all vaccine preventable stuff” -by over 50 percent in some places in India by just training the mother.
“But the worker has to engage with the patient, hopefully speak the same language or be of the same caste so that they’re willing to trust the advice that they’re getting,” Gates was quoted as saying.
Polio was paralysing 360,000 children a year around the world when the World Health Organization started its eradication mission in 1988. It was brought down to below 10,000 by 2000 and stayed flat from 2000 to 2010.
“And so in 2010, the polio community got together and said, ‘Look, are we going to succeed or not?’ And so there were a lot of improvements made, those led to finally getting done in India in 2011.” Gates was quoted as saying. “And India was expected to be the hardest and the last.”
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])
–Indo-Asian News Service