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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Department will launch a campaign from Sunday (tomorrow) to scale up awareness among parents of the significance of immunisation against nine vaccine-preventable childhood ailments.

“The campaign seeks to increase the immunisation rate from the existing 47 per cent and safeguard children against avoidable diseases,” officials said, adding that the drive would be run for three months in Peshawar every Sunday.

In the biggest-ever immunisation campaign in the province, about 12,000 ‘Sehat Razakaar’ (health volunteers) will go door to door and distribute invitation coupons among the parents, requesting them to bring their children for vaccination to their nearest centres run by the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) at government hospitals, they said.

The parents will be asked to fill up and return the coupons to the health workers and ensure to bring their less than two-year-old children for vaccination.

The officials said that the children would get free vaccination against tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, pertusis, tetanus, hepatitis ‘B’, haemophilus influenza, pneumonia and measles.

They said that routine immunisation for child-related illnesses had suffered a great deal in the past because the health workers remained preoccupied with anti-polio campaigns and gave little attention to other ailments.

Under the ‘Sehat Ka Insaf’ programme, the government wants to scale up routine immunisation and protect children.

The officials said that many private hospitals and clinics had been selling these vaccines, but parents couldn’t afford their cost and as such let their children exposed to dangerous diseases.

For instance, private outlets have been charging Rs4,000 for pneumonia vaccination of a child, which was out of reach of the poor, they said.

The officials said that a total of 210,000 households in 80 union councils would be targeted in the campaign during which coupons would be delivered to them.

They said that the invitation cards had been designed in line with the Pakhtun culture of “Sut” (invitation) so that people felt honoured to accept them.

They said that about 50 per cent of the targeted children in the city had been without vaccination due to which many deaths had occurred in the past few years.

Measles has been claiming lives of dozens of children every month due to non-vaccination, they added.

According to the officials, these vaccines could not be taken door to door as the government required qualified technical staff to administer them to children.

Therefore, the programme has been designed to inform the people about the importance of vaccination so they could bring their children to the nearest government hospitals.

The remaining UCs will be targeted on next Sundays.

The initiative will guide and enable the parents to visit the health facilities and get their children immunised.

The campaign has already been carried out on the past two Sundays in which only polio vaccination was carried out, the officials said.

The next 10 days will witness vaccination of all childhood diseases in Peshawar after which the same programme will be extended to other districts of the province.