ISLAMABAD: The third nationwide anti-polio campaign kicked off in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday. In other areas of the country, the drive will be launched on Sept 20.
Over 40 million children under five years of age will be administered vaccination drops along with a supplementary dose of Vitamin-A capsule during the campaign.
More than 290,000 Sehat Tahafuz frontline workers will go house to house for vaccination to protect children from lifelong paralysis caused by the polio virus.
Research also shows approximately 50 per cent of all children are Vitamin-A deficient in the country, so a supplementary dose of Vitamin-A will also be included providing protection against various infections and diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles and night blindness.
The campaign will start in rest of the country on 20th
“The programme has made significant gains with not a single case being reported for seven months, giving us a unique opportunity to achieve polio eradication. Now is the time to re-double our efforts and ensure we reach every eligible child with the polio vaccine to solidify this progress. Parents should open their doors to polio workers and vaccinate their children to make the way for a polio-free Pakistan,” said Dr Faisal Sultan, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Health, while speaking at the launching ceremony of Polio Immunisation campaign.
“As an indication of how high a priority polio eradication is, the prime minister recently met district commissioners of 20 high-risk districts and directed them to personally double their efforts to eradicate polio, and we expect to see results of that meeting in this upcoming campaign,” Dr Sultan said.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio cases are still reported. The virus has been eradicated in all other countries of the world, attesting to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
“The upcoming campaign is vital for the programme and Pakistan’s ability to achieve polio eradication,” Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative, said.
“We are currently going into the high transmission season during which the virus is especially active and need to ensure protection of all our children with the vaccine. It is essential to vaccinate every child in the upcoming campaign, especially all the new-born children and infants,” he said.
“We must emphasise that caregivers prioritise routine immunisation of children and visit health facilities as per schedule. Our aim is to immunise all children against vaccine-preventable diseases to protect them from life-threatening diseases,” Dr Baig said.
He claimed that Pakistan had made substantial progress towards polio eradication, with only one wild poliovirus case being reported in 2021 as compared to 75 cases reported in the same period last year.
“The significant reduction in cases is supported by a decrease in positive environmental samples from 55 per cent to 12 per cent,” he said.
He said that poliovirus was less active in the country.
“This is one of the lowest levels of detected wild poliovirus in the history of the country. It is vital that this opportunity to finally eradicate polio from Pakistan is seized,” he said.
“We must not be complacent and now is the time to further intensify our national efforts to drive polio out of the country once and for all,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021