Pakistan, Afghanistan will enhance cooperation to stop polio transmission

Published December 16, 2020
A health worker administers polio vaccine to a child as his father looks on. — Dawn/File
A health worker administers polio vaccine to a child as his father looks on. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan will further enhance cooperation and synchronise schedules of their immunisation campaigns to successfully eradicate poliovirus at the national and regional levels.

This was decided at a video conference on Tuesday that was attended by polio eradication teams of the two countries.

The two teams agreed they would continue sharing information and take steps to synchronise dates of their campaigns in 2021 to effectively tackle poliovirus transmission.

With intertwined communities and massive population movements between Pakistan and Afghanistan, synchronisation of vaccination schedules by them is critical to stopping transmission of the virus, according to analysts.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan are committed to working together as one team to tackle poliovirus transmission. Historically such cooperation has played a major role in reducing the number of polio cases, and we are eager to maintain it,” said Dr Rana Safdar, coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme and Expanded Programme on Immunisation.

According to an official statement, the two teams followed up on the issues raised during their last meeting in September and analysed opportunities and challenges they faced. They agreed to apprise each other of any progress in their efforts to eradicate the disease.

Such cross-border cooperation has been contributing significantly to improving both countries’ capacity to track the polio virus and vaccinating susceptible children, especially among populations that frequently travel across the Pak-Afghan border.

The polio programme has prioritised coordination between the two countries across the shared epidemiological block. Due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in both countries, polio eradication campaigns and vaccinations at permanent transit points and cross-border vaccination sites were suspended in both countries until August.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus, mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from the crippling disease.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2020

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