The discovery of children who have contracted polio in Aceh and Purwakarta, West Java, is the harsh reality that shows the failure of basic immunization.
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Polio is a nerve disease that can cause permanent paralysis and sometimes death. Polio can be overcome by immunization. In the late 1940s, the polio plague caused more than 35,000 people to be paralyzed every year in the United States, in the 1950s, when the Jonas Salk's polio vaccine began to be used, there were only 15,000 cases of paralysis and in the 1970s there were only 10 cases.
Vaccines are indeed one of the biggest wins of modern medical science. The World Health Organization (WHO) even announced the success of eradicating smallpox in 1980, thanks to smallpox vaccination.
All of that led an optimistic world to declare the Alma Ata Declaration: Targeting health for all can be achieved in 2000. This target was missed because of the many factors involved in it.
Even though immunization is proven to be the best way to protect children's health, there are many people who do not believe in immunization. Not to mention those who live in remote areas, conflict areas, or as members of nomadic tribes, so they are not reached by immunization.
The extraordinary development of communication technology makes information directly available first hand, no matter where it is right or wrong, and also becomes a factor in the rejection of vaccines. On the other hand, the progress of transportation facilitates mobility and accelerates the spread of viruses throughout the world.
The US, which had no cases of polio since 1979, was infected again in 1993 with a wild polio virus brought by travelers. Some countries are indeed low in immunization coverage so that polio cases still appear, especially in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Indonesia has been considered successful in overcoming polio. Immunization reduced 24 cases in 1994 to one case in 1995. However, this status did not last long. A 20-month-old child in Sukabumi, West Java, was known to be infected with a polio virus from West Africa that entered Indonesia through the Middle East. In 2006, 305 cases of polio were found in more than 10 provinces in Sumatra and Java. A decrease in immunization coverage was the main cause.
The government must work hard to find a way, including involving all stakeholders. From religious leaders, health workers, to the community in general.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, complete basic immunization coverage dropped from 84.2 percent in 2020 to 79.6 percent in 2021. The impact not only led to an increase in polio cases, but also an outbreak, recorded as an extraordinary event (KLB), of diphtheria in Garut, West Java.
The government has launched the National Immunization Program (PIN) to overcome this, but has not yet accommodated social problems that cause vaccine rejection. Therefore, the government must work hard to find a way, including involving all stakeholders. From religious leaders, health workers, to the community in general.
Without all this, Indonesia will not be able to meet the WHO polio eradication target in 2026.