KARACHI, Feb 19: A 10-day campaign to vaccinate about 570,000 students of 3,600 government schools in the city against hepatitis B will start on Monday under the Sindh chief minister’s initiative for a hepatitis-free Sindh.
This was stated by project director of the provincial hepatitis control programme Dr Abdul Majeed Chhuto at a symposium held at the Government Boys Secondary School in North Nazimabad on Saturday.
The programme was arranged by the deputy commissioner of district central, who is also the chairman of the vaccination campaign committee.
The symposium was preceded by an awareness walk in which schoolchildren, teachers, administrator of the DMC central, the director of the local government, additional deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, town health officers and the officers of the education department of district central took part.
Dr Chhuto told the participants in the symposium that a campaign to vaccinate about 600,000 students of government and private schools in the Hyderabad region was already launched on February 14.
All students studying in Class I to X would be vaccinated in the first phase of the campaign in the five districts of Karachi which would be followed by another round of vaccination for private school children, he said.
He said that a second dose would be given to the students of government schools after a gap of one month, ie from March 20, while the third dose would be administered to the children from April 20 onwards.
Heads of schools and teachers had already been asked to support the 388 vaccination teams comprising lady-health workers, paramedical staffs and government vaccinators and ensure attendance of students during the drive, he said, adding that schoolteachers would also be vaccinated against hepatitis B.
Dr Chhuto said that creating awareness among the general public and the healthcare community of preventive measures, including insisting on the use new syringes, properly sterilised surgical instruments, avoiding sexual contact with those known to carry the virus and ensuring that blood and blood products being used had properly been screened, were essential in controlling the spread of both hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Speaking to Dawn, the director said that the special campaign for schoolchildren which had been launched with the collaboration of the provincial education department for entire schools in the province, excluded the private schools in Karachi in view of some reservations of the school administrations.
However, the Sindh education secretary had already directed the director of the private schools in Sindh to look into the matter and arrange for the campaign at the earliest for those private schools which were willing to conduct the campaign at their schools, Dr Chhuto said.
The chairman of the district committee on hepatitis, deputy commissioner, district central, Dr Syed Saif ur Rehman, said that the campaign would help control the spread of hepatitis in schoolchildren.
He said that since hepatitis affected everyone, everywhere, it was necessary to know about it and take preventive measures against it.
He said the administration of district central would ensure that all children of the government schools within its limits, amounting to 130,000 children, were vaccinated and received the second and third doses of the vaccine.
He assured that all assistance would be provided to the town health officers and the staff concerned.
Professor Dr Serajudullah Syed, a consultant pathologist, said that the type B and C of five hepatitis viruses — A, B, C, D and E — could be considered the most dangerous as they accounted for 78 per cent of liver cancer cases.
Both hepatitis B and C could be transmitted through the use of affected blood or blood products, the use of contaminated syringes during medical procedures or injection drug use, he said, adding that hepatitis B could also be transmitted from mother to child at the time of birth.
Deputy director of the hepatitis prevention and control programme Dr Ali Anjum stressed that treatment was available for free in the prescribed 10 government medical centres in Karachi and three in district central for both hepatitis B and C in the form of interferon injections as well as oral medications which could be extremely effective, provided that the treatment was started at the early stage of disease.
Prevention through immunisation was preferable when dealing with hepatitis, stated Dr Zeeshan Ali, consultant Hepatologist at the Jinnah Post Medical Centre.