LAHORE: The polio eradication campaign suffered a major blow when nine new polio cases, including seven of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type-2 (cVDPV2), were reported from two provinces on Thursday.
The “outbreak” of cVDPV2 would be a cause of serious concern for global health organisations as Pakistan is among a few countries reporting such cases which have almost been eliminated globally.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cVDPV remained a menace to the end game of polio eradication as it is one of the main causes of re-emerging polio apart from vaccination refusal.
Of the nine, two were the wild poliovirus cases that were reported from Rahim Yar Khan district of Punjab and Killa Saifullah of Balochistan, paralysing the kids completely.
The situation remained very alarming in Punjab where five out of total seven children were paralysed by cVDPV2, while others were reported from Hyderabad and Korangi in Sindh.
In Punjab, Jhang district detected three cVDPV2 cases and Toba Tek Singh and Faisalabad one each.
Some health experts expressed serious concern, saying the global health bodies have alerted Pakistan many times about their prime concern that it was almost the only country where cVDPV2 cases have been surfacing.
Particularly, they said, the WHO had in its assessment a couple of years back alerted that the risk of spread of cVDPV2 in Pakistan was very high due to the high population movement and low population immunity against type 2 poliovirus.
They believed that the ‘criminal negligence’ on the part of the anti-polio programme authorities in following the standard guidelines in destroying the polio type 2 vaccine may be one of the prime reasons behind the resurgence of cVDPV2 cases in Pakistan.
The cVDPV2 was eradicated in 1999, leading to the withdrawal of the polio type 2 vaccine from the worldwide anti-polio programme by the WHO in 2016.
The programme officials may have dumped this vaccine instead of destroying them as par the global protocols, resulting in the resurgence of cVDPV2 cases which was an alarming sign for Pakistan.
In Islamabad, the National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed that two more polio cases have been found in Punjab and Balochistan, taking the national tally of the cases of the crippling disease to 72 so far this year.
According to an NIH official, a 21-month-old girl Rahim Yar Khan district has become the victim of the virus.
“Child’s all four limbs and neck muscles have been paralysed. Moreover, the socioeconomic status of the family has been declared poor. Family had arrived from Karachi to Rahim Yar Khan three months ago,” he said.
The one-year-old boy from Killa Saifullah is the 19th case of polio from Balochistan this year.
Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad and Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2020