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On Jan. 13, 2011, a case of polio was discovered in the Indian state of West Bengal. India has been a hotbed of polio, often exporting strains to polio-free countries such as China. What’s remarkable is that this case, three years ago, may be the last ever discovered in India. This year, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) will officially remove India from its list of polio-endemic countries, leaving just Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
India’s routine immunization rates — for measles, rubella hepatitis B, TB and the like — were last recorded in 2009 at 61 percent nationally. India accounts for a third of the world’s measles deaths. Public health is dismal, and India’s per-capita spending on health care is among the lowest in the world. Yet with polio, India achieved 95 percent coverage.
The success of India’s polio effort has turned it into a blueprint for large-scale health campaigns. Now India is using what it did with polio to boost rates of routine vaccinations.
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