PESHAWAR: The government is launching a three-day special vaccination campaign on Wednesday to scale up children’s immunity in districts, which risked vaccine-derive poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2) after detection of cases a fortnight ago.
The VDPV2 was eradicated worldwide in 1999 due to which the vaccine was withdrawn from the polio vaccination programme in 2016. However, after emergence of back to back cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the government requested the world health agency to make supplies of the vaccines available to be administered to the children from where cases were reported.
Since October last year, Pakistan has tested positive 18 children for PV2 virus, prompting the authorities to request to the World Health Organisation to carry out immunisation against the virus. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has recorded 12 cases of VDPV2.
Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar, the coordination of National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio, told Dawn that they had received enough quantity of vaccine from WHO’s strategic stockpile to control spread of the virus that was found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country.
He said that the campaign would be carried out in 15 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gujranwala and Sheikhupura in Punjab to respond to the circulation of virus and fully cover the children, who risked the infection.
The campaign will be carried out in 15 districts of KP
“Initially eight districts were targeted but later on due to new detections, we extended the drive to 16 districts,” said Dr Safdar. He added that it was imperative to start the drive simultaneously for best chances to cover moving children.
“Accordingly, instead of 27 January, we are conducting case-response campaign from January 29 to February 1. The campaign will target 4.03 million children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said.
He attributed the re-emergence of PV2 virus to unhygienic conditions and malnourishment and said that government was prepared to cope with the challenge posed by the virus.
Dr Safdar said that to further boost up immunity level of the under five children, two more campaigns, including one on March 9 and another on March 23, would be carried out in the at-risk districts.
“It is specific to risk and demands for a particular response. We have previously conducted vaccination against PV2 cases in Diamer and Gujranwala,” he said.
Dr Safdar said that situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was not satisfactory last year but the last campaign in December effectively reached all target population due to the administrative support in all districts. He said that the role of chief secretary was highly positive due to which they covered all the population during the last campaign.
“During the PV2 campaign, we have same support from the administration and hope that all the children will be vaccinated,” said Dr Safdar. He also appreciated the cooperation by all political leaders, regardless of political affiliations, during the vaccination drives which enabled the vaccinators to reach every house and inoculate children and safeguard them against disabilities.
“We are sure that this year will be crucial in efforts to eradicate the vaccine-preventable childhood ailment,” he said. He added that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded three cases in the current year of the countrywide six cases. In 2019, the province recorded 92 polio cases of the 140 nationwide cases.
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2020