UPDATED: Vaccines mean that India celebrates its first year free of polio

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Through a huge and coordinated vaccination campaign that included vaccinators going house to house and visiting even the most remote populations, India has just celebrated its first ever year of being free of wild-type polio. To support this, and to maintain the immunity across the country, India is in the middle of its National Immunization Days, where it hopes to have immunized 172 million children against polio by Feb. 25.

Polio has been a known affliction since prehistory, with Egyptian images depicting people with classic symptoms of this disabling viral infection. According to the WHO Global Polio Eradication Initiative, cases of polio have fallen by 99% since 1998, with just 14 cases worldwide reported so far in 2012 (as of Feb. 15).

India's achievement is amazing. Three polio-endemic countries remain, according to Voice of America--Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Vaccine campaigners will continue to fight against stories claiming the vaccine is a Western conspiracy to sterilize girls, or that it contains pork and thus cannot be used in Muslim countries.

In the words of Tony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF: "Let's act and let's act with an eye to results. We must all dedicate ourselves to writing this final chapter and closing the book on polio forever. For every child." — Suzanne Elvidge (email)

Editor's note: This story was updated to add 'wild-type polio'

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