PESHAWAR: Authorities claim to have immunised 98 per cent of the targeted children in the ongoing five-day anti-polio campaign, which, they say, will enhance the immunity of the children, who weren’t vaccinated due to coronavirus-induced restrictions.
“The campaign is under way to cover the missed children or the administer polio drops to the ones, who have been left out due to refusal by their parents. Our community-based approach is paying off and people are taking vaccination seriously,” coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar told Dawn.
According to him, the centre has made elaborate measures during the current door-to-door vaccination campaign to multiply the impact of immunity generated since the resumption of post-Covid-19’s supplementary immunisation activities.
“It’s the last drive of the year and we hope that the next year will be far better than the current,” he said.
Official says situation will be much better next year due to resumption of vaccination
Dr Safdar said unlike past campaigns, which were marred by incidents of violence, the current anti-polio drive didn’t record any serious, direct attack against vaccinators except few doorstep scuffles.
He said the law-enforcement agencies played a significant role in that respect.
The NEOC coordinator said the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), which was mandated to review polio-related situation, had forecast in June that amid Covid-19 pause of immunisation activities, well over 500 cases of wild poliovirus type 1 and even more of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) type would emerge by the end of 2020 if large-scale vaccination campaigns weren’t carried out.
“KP has made tremendous progress against polio. Last year, it recorded 73 polio cases but by the last month [November], the number dropped to 22. There’s a decline of 70 per cent,” he said.
Dr Safdar said the countrywide polio cases totalled 82 in 2020 compared to 147 in 2019.
He said 104 cVDPV2 cases were reported in the current year, while the 2019 case count was 22.
“We are hopeful that after the resumption of vaccination, things will be much better next year,” he said.
The NEOC coordinator said since 2012, 36 polio workers and 11 security men had been killed in the countrywide incidents linked to polio vaccination.
He said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had recorded 25 of those deaths, including 18 of polio workers and seven of policemen.
Dr Safdar, however, said the vaccinators remained steadfast to ensure safety of kids against disabilities.
“More than 285,000 valiant frontline workers continue their hard work to push the polio virus back despite challenges posed by the outbreak of coronavirus. As per the preliminary data, these unsung national heroes have been able to reach 98 per cent of the targeted 39.5m children across Pakistan,” he said.
The NEOC coordinator said the vaccinators fighting all odds were exercising all protective measures for Covid-19, including wearing of face masks and sanitising of hands, after vaccinating every child.
He said Pakistan’s response to risk estimations was aggressive and implemented in phased manner.
Dr Safdar said the recovery made by the country’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation had been widely appreciated.
He said he hoped that the ultimate vaccination coverage would reach 99 per cent.
The NEOC coordinator said in the post-Covid-19 scenario, the polio eradication programme began a small-scale campaign in July targeting 169 union councils only and field tested its revised operating modalities.
“Learning from the experience, large scale campaigns reaching over 30 million children were conducted in Aug, Oct and Sept,” he said.
Dr Safdar said the health workers had held direct sessions with community with the help of local influencers to address the vaccination refusal issue and therefore, the people, who had previously declined vaccination of their children, changed their position.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2020