Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– Bangladesh will immunise more than 22 million children under the age of five on 8 January for strengthening its polio free status by providing two drops of polio vaccine during the 19th National Immunisation Day (NID). 
Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, formally inaugurated the 19th NID at her official residence in the city on Thursday, a press joint statement said.  
On Saturday, the first round of 19th National Immunization Day (NID) for 2011 will take place. Health workers and volunteers will administer oral polio vaccine to 22 million children aged 0-59 months and vitamin A capsule to 20 million children aged 12-59 months at 140,000 sites located in health facilities and health centres, schools, as well as mobile sites (bus, boat and train stations) throughout the country. 
Moreover, a four-day house-to-house immunization by mobile teams will follow in order to make sure that no child be missed. 
“The fact that the national coverage of NID is generally above 95 per cent speaks for its success. But we still need to do more to immunize the remaining children living in the hard-to-reach areas through equitable distribution of service. It will not only help to maintain the polio-free status of the country, but will also help reduce other childhood diseases as it combines vitamin A,” said UNICEF Representative, Carel de Rooy. 
Dr Arun Thapa, Acting World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Bangladesh said, “The country has successfully maintained polio free status since 22 November 2006 after the last case of imported polio. But the threat of re-importation of the wild polio virus from polio endemic countries is not yet eliminated and we need to continue our efforts to sustain our highest achievements of previous NIDs and routine EPI coverage. Government’s contribution of more than 94 percent funding clearly indicates high level of commitment towards maintaining polio free status.” 
Vitamin A deficiency poses a major threat to the health and survival of children and mothers. It is estimated that vitamin A capsules save the lives of over 30,000 children per year and reduces illness among thousands of others in Bangladesh alone. 
The National Immunization Day (NID) marks the end point of several months of careful planning. It would not have been possible without the commitment of the Government of Bangladesh, particularly the EPI and Institute of Public Health Nutrition (IPHN) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 
Thousands of field managers, frontline workers and volunteers have joined forces to ensure that no child is missed. 
During the 18th NID in January 2010, the polio and vitamin A coverage was 92 per cent and 96 per cent respectively. 
Due to efforts of the Government and development partners in Bangladesh, coverage of vitamin A supplementation in Bangladesh has increased from around 50 per cent in the mid-1990s to over 95 per cent in recent years. 
BBN/SI/AD-06Jan11-8:37 pm (BST)