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Polio drive in high-risk districts begins today

Updated March 25, 2019

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Sub-national polio vaccination campaign will run for five days in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar blocks followed by a two-day catch-up drive in these areas. — AFP/File
Sub-national polio vaccination campaign will run for five days in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar blocks followed by a two-day catch-up drive in these areas. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Over 20 million children will be covered during a door-to-door vaccination campaign against polio, which is being launched in 97 high-risk districts across the country on Monday (today).

The sub-national polio vaccination campaign will run for five days in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar blocks followed by a two-day catch-up drive in these areas, while a three-plus-two-day campaign has been planned for other parts of Pakistan, according to Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar, coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Programme.

So far, six polio cases have been detected in the country this year. They include cases from Karachi, Lahore, Bajaur, Khyber, Hangu and Bannu.

During the special campaign, front-line polio workers will go door to door to ensure that millions of children below the age of five years are administered two drops of vaccine to protect them against the polio virus.

The government has urged parents to ensure immunisation of all children during each and every polio campaign.

According to a statement of the polio programme, more than 6.6 million children will be vaccinated against the virus in 12 districts of Punjab. A total of 5.59m children will be administrated polio vaccine in 25 districts of Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, including seven tribal districts, during the vaccination drive.

In Sindh, the campaign will run in Karachi and 20 other districts, where over 6.13m children below the age of five years will be administered polio vaccine.

Around 1.77m will be covered in 21 districts of Balochistan during the sub-national polio vaccination campaign.

In Islamabad, 240,000 children living in high risk areas will be administered polio drops during the drive.

“The age limit for vaccination has been enhanced from five years to 10 years in five union councils of Rawalpindi,” said the coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre for the Polio Programme.

Dr Safdar urged parents to “cooperate with polio workers and administer their children with anti-polio drops, which will ultimately help save the children from a lifetime of disability”.

He explained that polio virus could paralysed children for their entire life. “There is no cure for polio, but prevention through immunisation can reduce the chances of contracting the virus,” he said. Multiple vaccinations were critical in safeguarding children from the virus, he added.

He also asked religious leaders, civil society and the media to play their due roles in promoting the importance of vaccination.

“The country now has one of the best opportunities to stop transmission of polio virus. It is therefore high time that we all gear up to collectively fight the virus and provide support to our brave front-line workers so that they can reach and vaccinate every single Pakistani child,” said the prime minister’s focal person on polio eradication Babar Bin Atta.

He said there were challenges in way for complete eradication of the virus, but the federal and provincial governments remained firmly committed to defeating the virus forever.

He expressed the hope that all segments of society would come forward to support the programme during the final push against polio.

Polio, a highly infectious disease caused by virus mainly affecting children under the age of 10 years, invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. Repeated immunisation campaigns have helped nearly all countries of the world to become polio free.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2019