ISLAMABAD: The largest-ever survey of routine immunisation coverage across Pakistan has found that 76.1 per cent of children under the age of two years have received the full course of vaccinations under Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI).

Of the remaining children, over one in every six or 17.7 per cent have been vaccinated partially while 5.9 per cent of them never received vaccines, according to results from The Third-Party Verification Immunisation Coverage Survey (TPVICS).

The TPVICS study spanning over 110,000 households across all districts of Pakistan was conducted on behalf of the federal and provincial governments by the researchers from Aga Khan University’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, and its academic partners between July and Dec 2020.

The study’s findings were discussed by the provincial health ministers and federal government officials at a launch event at a local hotel in Islamabad on Thursday.

The survey revealed regional disparities in immunisation with 89.9 per cent vaccinated children in Punjab, 88.8pc in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 68.4pc in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 61.1pc in Sindh and 37.6pc in Balochistan.

“Results from this survey have yielded valuable district-level insights,” said Dr Mohammad Akram Shah, national programme manager for the federal government’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation.

“These findings will help inform the government’s efforts to improve internal processes and to identify risks and opportunities that will enable the country to achieve universal immunisation coverage,” said Dr Shah.

Pakistan has some of the world’s highest levels of infant and child mortality, partly a result of low vaccine coverage.

Low immunisation levels cause a variety of problems ranging from prevalence of polio as well as the high incidence of preventable diseases.

“Vaccines represent a low-cost and high-impact intervention that can raise health standards across the country,” said AKU’s Professor Sajid Soofi, the study’s principal investigator.

Improving immunisation levels across the country can help achieve health-related targets under the UN Sustainable Development Goal-3 which requires the government to end all preventable deaths of newborns and children under five by 2030.

The immunisation coverage survey was conducted by researchers from AKU in partnership with Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments, EPI, the WHO, GAVI the Vaccine Alliance and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. The survey was funded by the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Overall, 88,762 clusters, 109,495 households and 110,905 children were covered in the survey.

Task force meeting

The Ministry of National Health Services organised the second task force meeting of International Health Regulation (IHR) in collaboration with the WHO.

Pakistan is signatory to the IHR since 2007 and committed to strengthening its capacity to respond to health emergencies.

The meeting was chaired by special assistant to the prime minister on health Dr Faisal Sultan.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2021

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