Eradicating poliomyelitis: India's journey from hyperendemic to polio-free status
India's success in eliminating wild polioviruses (WPVs) has been acclaimed globally. Since the last case on January 13, 2011 success has been sustained for two years. By early 2014 India could be certified free of WPV transmission, if no indigenous transmission occurs, the chances of which is considered zero. Until early 1990s India was hyperendemic for polio, with an average of 500 to 1000 children getting paralysed daily. In spite of introducing trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (tOPV) in the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in 1979, the burden of polio did not fall below that of the pre-EPI era for a decade. One of the main reasons was the low vaccine efficacy (VE) of tOPV against WPV types 1 and 3. The VE of tOPV was highest for type 2 and WPV type 2 was eliminated in 1999 itself as the average per-capita vaccine coverage reached 6. The VE against types 1 and 3 was the lowest in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the force of transmission of WPVs was maximum on account of the highest infant-population density. Transmission was finally interrupted with sustained and extraordinary efforts. During the years since 2004 annual pulse polio vaccination campaigns were conducted 10 times each year, virtually every child was tracked and vaccinated - including in all transit points and transport vehicles, monovalent OPV types 1 and 3 were licensed and applied in titrated campaigns according to WPV epidemiology and bivalent OPV (bOPV, with both types 1 and 3) was developed and judiciously deployed. Elimination of WPVs with OPV is only phase 1 of polio eradication. India is poised to progress to phase 2, with introduction of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), switch from tOPV to bOPV and final elimination of all vaccine-related and vaccine-derived polioviruses. True polio eradication demands zero incidence of poliovirus infection, wild and vaccine.