LAHORE:The World Polio Day is being commemorated on Saturday (today).

The day is observed on Oct 24 with a commitment to fight against poliomyelitis and pay a tribute to Jonas Salk, American medical researcher and virologist who led the first team that developed a vaccine against poliomyelitis.

The completion of polio eradication is followed as programmatic emergency in global health sphere.

In a statement issued on this occasion, Punjab Health Director General Dr Zahid Pervaiz said polio had been declared a national emergency and a dedicated team of professionals in the Emergency Operation Centre in the health directorate was working hard to achieve the targets.

He said Punjab had made a progress over the last two years and with other variables in control, polio eradication may well be in sight within a year.

He said the World Polio Day gives us an opportunity to renew our pledge to work with more dedication. Given its implication on our image in the comity of nation, it is not just for one organisation and institution to undertake the task, it is now responsibility of everyone in the country, he said.

“We have introduced inactivated injectable polio vaccine (IPV) for children above 14 weeks of age in routine immunisation and Punjab will also switch from tOPV to bOPV by April 2016,” he said.

In 2014, Punjab accounted for just four cases out of a total of 306 reported all over the country. In 2015, there had been only one case so far out of a total of 38, an under-nourished 71-month old child in Chakwal, who escaped disability because of over 12 immunisation doses. But statistically, that stands as a polio case, he added.

The DG said with the use of android-based tailor-made application E-vaccs with a support from the PITB, Punjab had been able to boost its routine immunisation to 70 per cent from mid-50s within a year.

He said thousands of travellers moved in and out of Punjab to reservoir areas all through the year. Then there were seasonal migrants in bordering areas, who came for a short time. Even though permanent transit points had been set up at strategic routes, the movement of population at such a scale posed a set of unique challenges.

Dr Zahid Pervaiz said, without a country-wide polio eradication campaign, keeping Punjab a polio-free province was a tough task. The National Emergency Action Plan was being implemented in letter and spirit.

“Besides, we are laying special emphasis on improving routine immunisation which has improved a great deal over the last year,” he said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan were the only countries battling polio now with Nigeria making a considerable progress towards polio-free status, he concluded.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2015

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