The first three-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign of 2019 is going to start on Monday (today).
During the campaign, 260,000 frontline workers will go door to door across the country to ensure that more than 39 million children under the age of five receive two drops of the vaccine, which will protect them against poliovirus.
Last year, 12 cases of wild poliovirus were reported in the country — five from Bajaur tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three from Dukki district in Balochistan and one each from Charsadda, Lakki Marwat and Khyber in KP and Gadap, Karachi. This indicates 97 per cent decrease in the number of annual polio cases from the high tally of 306 reported in 2014.
Despite this significant achievement, the cunning poliovirus has been able to find a way for its survival. During December 2018, sewage water samples collected from Karachi, Peshawar, Bannu, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Qila Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta tested positive for poliovirus. The genetic analysis reports from the Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health confirmed that the virus was able to take the road from current hotspots within the country and in Afghanistan, posing risk for under-immunised children residing elsewhere.
A total of 260,000 frontline workers will go door to door to vaccinate 39 million children
According to the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Babar Bin Atta, “The government has a firm resolve to defeat poliovirus transmission in the country through optimum utilisation of this low transmission season.”
According to an official statement, under the umbrella of the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), the entire team of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme will strive to hit the virus hard through the high-quality immunisation campaign. Considering its significance, 50 experts have been deployed to facilitate preparedness and ground implementation of vaccination campaign activities by local teams in priority areas. The campaign in Pakistan has been synchronised with Afghanistan to ensure vaccination of all children on the move as well.
“We will continue the momentum and address any remaining gaps in order to defeat the poliovirus. It’s very important that parents are committed to protecting their children from virus through repeated vaccinations each time drops are offered by our dedicated polio workers during these campaigns,” said National EOC National Coordinator Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar.
“This is a good opportunity to stem virus circulation and develop children’s immunity enough to fight against the attacks of poliovirus,” he said.
In Balochistan also, more than 2.5m children will be administered polio drops during the campaign.
As many as 10,356 teams would be deployed to vaccinate children, said EOC Coordinator Rashid Razzaq. Apart from 8,829 mobile teams, 951 fixed points and 576 transit points have been set up all over Balochistan to ensure that all children are administered polio drops.
“We have adopted strict security measures to prevent any unpredictable situation,” the official said. Personnel of Balochistan Levies Force, police and Frontier Corps will be deployed to protect the polio workers.
Mr Razzaq said religious scholars were also taking part in the campaign to persuade the parents who normally refused workers to administer polio drops to their children.
Saleem Shahid from Quetta also contributed to this report
By Ikram Junaidi