PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will launch a two-week campaign to vaccinate 9.6 million children against measles in the province.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Provincial Minister for Health Shahram Khan Tarakai said that the drive would be launched across the province on May 19.

He said that during the drive 5,000 workers would also administer anti-polio vaccine to children in seven southern districts -- Hangu, Karak, Bannu, Kohat, Lakki Marwat, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan -- while children in 43 union councils of Peshawar would also get anti-polio drops alongside measles vaccination.

The minister said that in two union councils of Nowshera, including Jalozai camp, 1.5 million children would receive anti-polio and anti-measles vaccine. “Last year, the province registered more than 10,000 suspected cases of measles with 15 deaths. The number of cases today is 3,666 with five deaths,” he said.

Mr Tarakai said that the drive would cost more than Rs1 billion. Of the total outlay for the programme, Rs470 million would be spent by the provincial government while the remaining Rs530 million would be provided by Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI), he said.

The minister said that children up to 10 years would be administered anti-measles drops under the direct supervision of divisional and deputy commissioners for which necessary arrangements were being finalised. “Following outbreak of measles in Punjab and Sindh, we fear the disease can assume the shape of an epidemic in the province. The effort is aimed to protect children against measles, which is preventable through free vaccination at the government’s hospitals,” he said.

Besides the health facilities, children would be administered vaccine in schools, hujra and centres to be established in designated districts, the minister said. Awareness regarding childhood diseases was being created so that people could protect their children from avoidable deaths through immunisation, he said.

Mr Tarakai stressed the need for cooperation between the province and centre to ensure vaccination of children in Federally Administered Tribal Areas and stop transportation of polio to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was declared polio-free after the successful vaccination programme.

The province made tremendous progress towards eradication of polio but it faced continuous risk from the nearby Fata where the disease broke out, he added.

“We have been administering vaccine to children at 179 vaccination points, established for the children coming to the province from Fata,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2014

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