The first nationwide polio vaccination campaign of current year started across the country on Monday to immunize over 39 million children despite harsh cold weather with continuous rainfall and snowfall on hilly areas.
According to an official of National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), as many as 260,000 front line workers started going door to door across all provinces and towns to ensure more than 39 million children under the age of five receive two drops of the vaccine to protect them against the polio virus.
He said in 2018, 12 cases of wild polio virus have been reported in the country including three from Dukki district in Balochistan, one from Charsadda, one from Lakki Marwat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one from Gadap, Karachi, one from Khyber and five cases from Bajaur tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
This indicated an overall 97 percent decrease in the number of annual polio cases from the highs of 306 reported in 2014.
Despite this significant achievement, the polio virus has been able to find a way for its survival, he added.
He said that during the month of December, sewage water samples collected from Karachi, Peshawar, Bannu, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta tested positive for the polio virus.
He said 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 country and in Afghanistan, posing risk for under immunized children residing elsewhere.
Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Babar Bin Atta said, “The government has a firm resolve to defeat polio virus transmission in the country through optimum utilization of this low transmission season.”
He said, “I am short of words to praise the efforts of polio workers and hope that they will perform their best in the first campaign of this year to fight this fatal disease, once and for all.” He said that under the umbrella of the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), the entire team of the Pakistan Polio Eradication programme would strive all out to hit the virus hard through this high-quality nationwide immunization campaign.
Considering its significance, the National EOC has deployed 50 experts to facilitate preparedness and ground implementation of vaccination campaign activities by the local teams in priority areas. The campaign in Pakistan is synchronized with Afghanistan to ensure vaccination of all children on the move as well.
The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reviewed Pakistan’s progress and gave recommendations for further improvement during the recently held technical review.
The TAG recommended that the top priority of the programme should be to fully focus on reaching still missed children in core reservoir of the polio-virus through continued improvement of operations and capacitating front-line polio workers to reach and protect every missed child with the vital polio vaccine.
“We will continue the momentum and address any remaining gaps in order to defeat the polio virus. it’s very important that parents are committed to protect their children from virus through repeated vaccinations each time drops are offered by our dedicated polio workers during these campaigns,” the National Coordinator, National Emergency Operations Centre, Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative, Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar said.
“This is a good opportunity to stem virus circulation and develop children’s immunity enough to fight against the attacks of polio-virus,” Dr Rana added.
He said polio is a highly infectious disease caused by polio-virus mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system, and could cause paralysis or even death.
He said there was no cure for polio and the vaccination was the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease.
Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated due to which their protection against the virus is increased.
He said repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio free.