ISLAMABAD: A five-day national polio immunisation drive will commence on Monday (today) during which over 39 million children under five years of age will be vaccinated across the country; around 285,000 health workers will go from house to house, observing strict SOPs for Covid-19, in an effort to save children from the crippling disease.
“The government is committed to making Pakistan polio free. We are determined to close the immunity gap in children which had unfortunately widened because of disruption of essential services due to Covid-19 pandemic. Ensuring timely and repeated vaccinations of children is critical for us to reduce the immunity gap and protect them against polio. I, therefore, urge all parents and care givers to ensure polio vaccination to their children during the campaign as well as in routine,” said Dr Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the prime minister on health.
“I am confident, together we will achieve our target of making a safer, healthier and polio-free Pakistan for our children,” hoped Dr Sultan at the inauguration of the polio campaign.
According to a statement, during the campaign the trained polio frontline workers will reach every child with essential polio vaccine while adhering to strict Covid-19 standard operating procedures such as wearing mask, using hand sanitiser and maintaining the minimum distance advised during the campaign. The campaign has been planned in coordination with Afghanistan.
285,000 SOPs-observing health workers will take part in the campaign
“While continuing our efforts to enhance essential immunisation coverages, the back-to-back planned immunisation campaigns are imperative to give quick immunity boost to children under the age of five,” said Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre, Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI).
“We need to ensure that no child is missed during this critical national immunisation campaign aimed to build on successful immunity building efforts during last three months. I urge every Pakistani to take it as a national mission and support the frontline workers who will reach every child with essential polio vaccine during the week. All segments of society, including communities, media, religious leaders, social activists, celebrities and doctors, should play active role so that no child remains at risk of contracting polio disease and becoming paralysed for life,” Dr Rana said.
Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with its neighbour Afghanistan. The country is facing a challenging situation in polio eradication with the upsurge of the number of polio cases. So far in current year, a total of 82 polio cases have been reported, including 24 from Balochistan, 22 each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, and 14 from Punjab.
In Balochistan, all arrangements have been made for the five-day polio campaign.
Coordinator of Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Balochistan Rashid Razzaq said here on Sunday that that around 2.5 million children under the age of five years would be administered polio drops in all 33 districts of the province.
He said complete security would be provided to vaccinators and other workers taking part in the campaign.
He said for the campaign, 10,585 teams of vaccinators have been formed, adding that 8,988 teams of vaccinators would go home to home to administer polio drops to children, 941 teams of vaccinators would sit in camps to be set up in cities and towns and 594 teams, which would be deployed at the borders of the province, would administer polio drops to children arriving or leaving the province with their families.
Strict security measures had been taken for the campaign and personnel of Balochistan Levies force, Police and Frontier Corps (FC) would move with all teams of vaccinators, Mr Razzaq said.
He said religious scholars, tribal elders and other people who have influence in their areas would motivate parents to get their children vaccinated.
Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2020