Nomadic and hard-to-reach population, unavailability of Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), lack of monitoring and supervision of immunisation practices by dzongkhag health officer (DHO) are some of the challenges facing polio immunisation in the country today.

The challenges were presented at the fourth biennial health conference held from September 14 to 16.

Health Secretary Ugyen Dophu said that the health officials would know of the people who did not avail of the health services and they [health officials] should approach the ministry for support. He added that the ministry would support well-intentioned and well-researched proposals for support.

He said that the plan was to move forward without leaving anyone behind in the process.

Chairperson of National Certification Commission for Poliomyelitis Eradication (NCCPE), Dr Tandi Dorji, said that starting April 6, 2016, after the switch from trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV), all IPV shipments of vaccine-derived poliovirus type II outbreak to the low-risk countries was stopped. The supply would resume when the vaccine becomes available.

Bhutan switched to bOPV after type II virus was eliminated since 1999. tOPV consists of type I, II and III virus, bOPV consists of type I and III.

It was recommended that DHOs and health officials should analyse the data available in the district for better monitoring.

Dr Tandi Dorji said that there was 3.5 percent of non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases in 2016, a decrease from 4.4 percent in 2015. There were four cases of AFP in 2017.

AFP is defined as a sudden onset of paralysis or weakness in any part of the body of a child below 15 years of age. Non-polio AFT rate is the incidence of AFP caused by diseases other than poliomyelitis.

Bhutan was certified polio free in the region in March 23, 2014.

Phurpa Lhamo