West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called upon parents and caregivers across the state to ensure that they immunize their children against polio in a week-long immunization campaign starting on 24 June and in all ensuing polio immunization campaigns, and help eradicate the crippling disease once and for all from West Bengal.
“We have to take the vaccine so that there are no cases of polio – we have to eradicate the virus from wherever it is in existence,” Ms. Banerjee said, moments before undertaking what she called “the proud privilege” of immunizing four children with oral polio vaccine in front of the State’s media at the Writer’s Building. West Bengal is the only state with poliovirus transmission in India this year.
Ms. Banerjee called upon the state’s health workers and parents to take the oath that they would vaccinate their children “in every inch” of the state. “The children are the future of this country. Today we are thinking of our kids and they will have the Polio Plus. We want to see that all those kids are healthy.”
Principal Secretary for Ministry of Health and Additional Chief Secretary Dr. Manabendra Nath Roy said he expected Ms. Banerjee’s public immunization would give “a big boost so that we can mobilize each and every child to be immunized”.
WHO National Polio Surveillance Project Acting Project Manager Dr. Sunil Bahl said all of India – and indeed the world – was looking to West Bengal to finish the job of polio eradication. “We are indeed grateful to you,” Dr. Bahl told Ms. Banerjee. “We are looking forward to the great boost that this is going to give to the polio eradication programme and the whole world hopes that under your leadership that this virus is going to be eradicated from the country.”
UNICEF Chief Field Officer Edouard Beigbeder underlined the remarkable achievement of India falling from 741 cases two years ago to just one solitary case this year: “Naturally we need to go down to zero – to ensure that this disease is only a memory”.
Incoming Rotary International Director of West Bengal, Mr. Shekhar Mehta, said that the Chief Minister’s support was “unprecedented”. “This is a big boost for us,” he said.