PESHAWAR, Dec 8: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has made a new strategy to effectively address the serious problem of polio vaccination refusals and children remaining unvaccinated for other reasons in the province, according to a senior provincial official.

Until now this year, the province has recorded 25 new polio cases against the last year’s tally of 23.

“The new strategy to be implemented in 2013 will empower the Union Council Polio Eradication Committees (UPECs) to ensure that the missed (polio vaccination) and refusal cases are covered,” Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah, technical focal person for polio at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, told Dawn on Saturday.

Dr Imtiaz said under the new strategy, the district khateebs would be made members of the relevant UPECs and given leading roles in the polio campaign.

“We want to make the 2013 campaign a last episode of the 15-year-long struggle against polio,” he said.

According to Dr Imtiaz, the strategy seeks to involve revenue officials in immunisation campaigns.

“This has delivered the goods in Kohat where refusal cases have been reduced from 1,000 to 270 only in polio vaccination campaign. We hope that we can replicate the same in the whole province to do away with the missed and refusal cases,” he said.The official said the province had 73,000 unvaccinated children and of them, 59,000 were missed polio vaccination and 14,000 refusal cases.

He said in light of the new strategy, we would focus on these cases as the unvaccinated children put the immunised children at the risk of getting infected with poliomyelitis.

Dr Imtiaz said the district coordination officers being the chairmen of the District Polio Eradication Committees would spearhead the vaccination campaigns in their respective districts and would take action against the officials not doing their tasks diligently.

He said the district polio control rooms currently housed in the office of the executive district officers (health) would be shifted to the DCO offices to monitor the effectiveness of the immunisation campaign at the UC level.

According to him, the number of vaccination refusal cases has dropped over the last few months and the new strategy will cover the remaining such cases. “There are a few pockets where the people have collectively refused vaccination. Except Peshawar, Bannu and Lakki Marwat with 3,000, 1,700 and 1,300 vaccination refusal cases respectively, the rest of the districts in the province recorded a fewer refusal cases, which can be covered after the new strategy,” he said.

Dr Imtiaz said the social mobilisation officers and monitoring officers recruited by the UN agencies to support the government’s vaccination efforts would be brought under the control of DCOs. He said the performance of all vaccinators, social mobilisers and monitoring staff would be brought under DPECs and that anyone showing laxity would face action.

Dr Imtiaz said the Provincial Polio Control Room would monitor the functioning of the DPECs to ensure that they worked properly. He said the provincial chief secretary would monitor the immunisation campaigns in the province.

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