The Union Health Ministry on Thursday said that it has postponed the anti-polio drive to January 31. The drive was supposed to start from January 16 but has been rescheduled in the wake of the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts which will start from January 16. The ministry said that step has been taken to “ensure that Covid management and vaccination services, as well as non-Covid essential health services, proceed in tandem without adversely impacting each other.”

The National Polio immunisation programme , had earlier been deferred “till further notice” by the Centre citing “unforeseen activities”.  As a part of the programme, children in the age group of 0-5 years are administered polio drops.

The National Immunisation Day (NID), also known as Pulse Polio Immunisation programme, was supposed to be held on January 17 across India.

On January 9, the Union health ministry communicated to the states via a letter, the decision to defer the polio immunisation programme.

The letter was sent to the principal secretary in the health department of all states. It stated, “This is to inform that due to unforeseen activities, it is decided to postpone the scheduled Polio NID (National Immunisation Day) round from January 17, 2021 till further notice”.

Earlier on January 8, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare had said that polio immunisation will be carried out on January 17. It was supposed to run for two or three days covering aspects like identifying and immunising children left out from vaccination.

The minister had also said that the vaccination was very essential to ensure that the nation maintained overall immunity levels against polio virus.

The country is all set to launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive from January 16. The Prime Minister has called it the world’s largest inoculation programme. Priority is being given to nearly three crore healthcare and frontline workers.

According to the COVID-19 Vaccine Operational Guidelines issued to states for the immunisation drive by health ministry, the COVID-19 vaccine will be offered first to healthcare workers, and frontline workers.  It will then be given to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated co-morbidities based on evolving pandemic situation.

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