Polio plus outreach activity to cover over 1m children

Updated July 22, 2019

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is beginning the first-ever polio plus outreach activity to provide oral polio vaccine as well as immunisation against all childhood ailments in the province from Monday. — AFP/File
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is beginning the first-ever polio plus outreach activity to provide oral polio vaccine as well as immunisation against all childhood ailments in the province from Monday. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is beginning the first-ever polio plus outreach activity to provide oral polio vaccine as well as immunisation against all childhood ailments in the province from Monday.

“It is the maiden activities after integration of the expanded programme on immunisation and polio eradication initiative as part of conversion of our routine outreach micro plan to accelerate 12-days outreach activities,” Dr Akram Shah, KP director EPI, told Dawn.

He said that it was desperately needed to strengthen EPI because it was important to sustain the achievements of the polio eradication initiative. The latter was designed to eradicate poliomyelitis and the former was responsible to ensure that poliomyelitis did not re-emerge once it was eradicated, he added.

“During these outreach activities, vaccines are provided to children under two year of age against 10 diseases including childhood tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, pneumonia, meningitis, diarrhoea, measles, hepatitis and poliomyelitis,” said Dr Akram.

Target of activity includes unregistered children below two-year age

He said that the target for the outreach included unregistered children below age of two years so that a record about all children could be compiled. He added that the activity target was about 1.1 million children.

About 3,000 EPI workers would be vaccinating children at the 1,295 fixed centres located in hospitals and health facilities in all districts whereas the staff would be also visiting homes to ensure that all children were registered and vaccinated.

“To ensure success of the effort, we would be administering vaccines to children through outreach static site in Mohallas, Hujra and mosque while hard-to- reach area will be accessed through mobile activities,” said DR Akram.

He said that it was the fifth extensive outreach activity across the province in the current year. He said that the global target set for Penta III coverage (immunisation for five diseases) was 80 per cent at district level and 90 per cent at provincial level.

Last month, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government integrated with the UN-run PEI under the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to ensure eradication of polio and strengthen general immunisation, especially in tribal districts where vaccination stands at 40 per cent only against the national target of 80 per cent.

EOC coordinator Kamran Ahmed Afridi said that the outreach activity was significant to registered the newborn children and ensure their immunisation.

“In Peshawar, we are laying focus on the 18 high-risk union councils for poliovirus where staff would be deployed to take care of all vaccinations,” he said.

He said that the environmental sample taken from sewerage water in Bannu, Kohat, Peshawar and Mardan had been negative in the past couple of months. “It means that these cities don’t have poliovirus. It is just like light at the end of the tunnel and we hope the situation would further improve due to collaborative efforts,” he added.

However, Mr Afridi said that they needed to accelerate activities and deny chance to the virus to step in again. The EOC, under which the EPI and PEI work, is also worried about situation with regard to immunisation in tribal districts where efforts are afoot to cope with the situation.

“There are some health facilities in some areas while there is none in other areas which deprive the children of essential immunisation,” said Mr Afridi. He said that the activity also covered the parents, who were reluctant to administer polio vaccine to their children, and at the same time ensured that children were immunised against 10 childhood diseases.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2019