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Polio programme introduces reforms after rise in cases

Updated May 21, 2019

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Pakistan is one of the last two countries, alongside Afghanistan, where poliovirus cases are being reported.  — AFP/File
Pakistan is one of the last two countries, alongside Afghanistan, where poliovirus cases are being reported. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The polio programme will undergo major operational reforms after a continuous rise in the number of polio cases across the country.

The reforms include reducing the number of visits and follow-ups by polio vaccination teams, eliminating the use of data registers and limiting the number of questions families are asked.

Pakistan is one of the last two countries, alongside Afghanistan, where poliovirus cases are being reported.

A total of 17 cases have been reported this year; six from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, five from KP’s tribal districts, three from Punjab and three from Sindh.

Explaining the reforms, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta told Dawn that polio workers used to carry registers that were introduced in 2016, which they will no longer carry.

“Polio workers said it was not possible for them to interact and convince families because they spent most of their time filling data in the registers,” he said.

The number of questions for residents has also been reduced to prevent them from panicking, he said.

“Residents will be asked how many children are in the house and how many of them have been vaccinated.

“Earlier, workers were directed to ask how many couples were in the house, when they were married, how many children they had and if there were any pregnant women in the house and when delivery was expected,” he said.

Mr Atta said that during and after every vaccination campaign, polio workers, the area in-charge, the technical tehsil monitor, union council representatives and so on made as many as nine visits.

“Now there will only be two visits, by the polio worker and supervisor. It will help to restore community trust,” he said.

In response to a question, he said that the next polio vaccination campaign will be held in the second week of June.

“Now we will focus on environmental samples, and make sure that the virus is eradicated from the sewage,” he said.

A positive environmental sample is one in which the poliovirus is found in sewage water. Samples of sewage water are the basic parameter to determine if polio vaccination campaigns have been successful in an area.

A polio case can be reported in any city due to the frequent movement of people from one city to another, but the presence of the virus in sewage water indicates that the vaccination campaign did not achieve its target.

It also shows that the immunity of local children has fallen and they are at risk of the disease.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2019