Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif administers polio drops to a child on Wednesday to officially inaugurate the national immunisation campaign across Pakistan.—White Star
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif administers polio drops to a child on Wednesday to officially inaugurate the national immunisation campaign across Pakistan.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday kicked off the polio eradication campaign in the country by administering vaccination drops to some children and directed the federal and provincial governments to address the challenges of persistently missed children and fake finger marking.

The second countrywide vaccination campaign will be launched from May 23 to 27. The drive is aimed at reaching approximately 43.3 million children under the age of five.

Speaking at a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication convened for the purpose, the prime minister stressed the need for joint efforts of all stakeholders including federal agencies, provincial governments and international agencies to eradicate the disease from the country.

The prime minister said the challenge of polio still existed and emphasised the need for all to work together to eradicate the menace.

Nationwide vaccination campaign to run from May 23 to 27

He assured the provinces every possible help and cooperation from the federal government for the purpose.

The polio eradication campaigns were being conducted at sub-national level or in selected union councils, but after detection of the three new polio cases in North Waziristan after a gap of 15 months, it has now been decided to launch the drive throughout the country.

Around 340,000 polio frontline workers will provide polio vaccines to the people at their doorsteps during the campaign. A supplementary dose of Vitamin A drops will also be administered to children aged 59-month-old to six years during the drive.

The prime minister expressed the hope that all eligible children, especially those living in polio high-risk districts, would be administered polio drops during the campaign.

“I urge all parents and caregivers to get their children vaccinated instead of hiding them or refusing to let them be administered polio drops during the drive. It is important to understand that poliovirus still exists in our surroundings and no child is safe until all children are vaccinated,” Mr Sharif said.

Around 400,000 children miss polio drive each year on the pretext of being unavailable at homes or parents telling campaign workers their children are sick.

In a number of cases, parents do fake finger markings and claim their children have been vaccinated.

He thanked World Health Organisation (WHO), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other organisations for providing technical and financial support for the campaign in the country.

On this occasion, it was pointed out that at present, 25 districts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were at high risk for spread of polio virus.

PMA condemns kidnapping of Dr Zeeshan

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has condemned the kidnapping of Dr Zeeshan in Waziristan during the polio campaign.

The PMA’s Islamabad president, Dr Akhtar Ali Bandesha, and General Secretary Dr Mubashir Mushtaq Daha termed the kidnapping incident condemnable.

They demanded the prime minister, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), health minister and inspector general of police (KP) to look into the matter and make sure the safe return of Dr Zeeshan from kidnappers.

According to media reports, Dr Zeeshan was kidnapped on May 17 from Haiderkhel area in Mir Ali tehsil of North Waziristan. He belongs to Swat district and went there along with a 17-member team for raising awareness among the masses about the disease and drum up support for the polio campaign.

The meeting was attended by federal ministers Marriyum Aurangzeb, Abdul Qadir Patel, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz (through a video link), Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, Balochistan Health Minister Ahsan Shah, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Minister of Health (through video link), provincial chief secretaries and representatives of international organisations.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2022

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