ISLAMABAD: The last nationwide anti-polio campaign of the year will start on Monday (today) to vaccinate more than 38 million children under five years of age.

During the campaign, over 270,000 frontline workers will go door to door to ensure that every child receives vaccines.

Eight cases of wild poliovirus — three from Dukki district in Balo­chistan, one from Charsadda in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one from Gadap in Sindh, one from Khyber and two cases from Bajaur — have so far been reported this year.

It shows that the number of annual polio cases has decreased by 97 per cent from 306 reported in 2014.

In November, the sewage water samples collected from Karachi, Sukkur, Pesha­war, Mardan, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad tested positive for poliovirus.

The genetic analysis reports from the Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, confirmed that the virus was able to take the road from current hotspots within the country and in Afghanistan, posing risks to under-immunised children residing elsewhere.

Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta said: “The battle is very much on and it is absolutely critical that parents ensure that all their children under the age of five are vaccinated during the polio vaccination campaigns. I would urge every Pakistani to assume the role of a Sehat Muhafiz and ensure that no child is left unvaccinated in his own house or in the neighbourhood.”

National Coordinator for Polio Eradication Dr Rana Safdar said low temperatures were the best time to hit the virus when it became less active.

“Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Programme is fully committed to using upcoming campaigns over the next few months as the opportunity to stop the virus circulation once and for all,” he said.

“The deployment of staff across critical areas of the country will guarantee that each and every child is administered the required two drops of oral polio vaccine that not only protects children from contracting the virus, but also prevents them from carrying the virus in their intestines,” he added.

The National Emergency Operations Centre has clarified for parents that all children vaccinated in routine as well as in previous campaigns must also be administered oral polio vaccine in future campaigns.

“Every additional dose puts another circle of protection around children who might be vulnerable due to insufficient immunity, especially in areas with poor nutrition and sanitation challenges,” a press release issued by the centre stated.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world that have reported wild poliovirus cases this year.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018