Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said on Monday polio was not the only challenge faced by the health authorities in the province as there were several other infectious diseases, including measles and typhoid, which were resulting in deaths of children and required to be eradicated after the elimination of polio from our soil.
”Measles and typhoid are also becoming a serious public health challenge and our children are under threat from these infectious diseases too. We need to take care of all these challenges once we get rid of polio,” she said while inaugurating an inactivated (injectable) polio vaccine drive at the DHO office in Liaquatabad.
The vaccine campaign will continue till February 26 in 106 union councils of Karachi across 10 towns and the target is 1.483 million children from four months to five years of age.
Polio eradication initiative officials said that as many as 1.0548 million children from 0-5 years of age would also be given the oral polio vaccine during this campaign in addition to polio vaccine injections.
The health minister maintained that the injectable polio vaccine was not a replacement for the oral polio vaccine but was an additional vaccine for building immunity in children against the virus. She said fixed centres had been established in the campaign areas where parents could bring their children for vaccination.
“The IPV and the OPV given together provide better protection for children. The IPV is also part of routine immunisation.”
The minister noted that the polio virus was still circulating in the environment as environmental samples had tested positive in different areas of Karachi as well as in other cities of Sindh, including Sukkur and Larkana.
She urged the people not to ignore the threat of polio. On the occasion, she directed private and public schools’ administrations to get children vaccinated, saying it was the last and final push against the dreaded disease. She warned that strict action would be taken against schools refusing to get children vaccinated.
Responding to a query, she said the strike carried out by the young doctors during the last week was an unfortunate event during which many children died. She added that doctors should have exercised restraint and tried to resolve issues through talks.
Meanwhile, Coordinator EOC Sindh Umar Farooq Bullo said that the situation of polio in the province, especially in Karachi, had greatly improved and in 2018 only one polio case was reported, which was a historic low. However, the virus had shown up in the environment from time to time; hence, an IPV campaign was being launched to give children extra protection against the virus, he added.
More than 2,000 fixed and outreach sites have been established in 106 union councils of the city where parents can bring their children from the age of 4 months to 5 years to give them injections to save them from polio. Meanwhile 1.52 million children from 0 to 5 years of age will also be given the oral vaccine at these sites.
Bullo said: “The IPV is not a replacement for the OPV but instead an added protection for children who might fall prey to the virus. The IPV is now also part of the routine immunisation schedule.”
The government machinery including Deputy The commissioners, district health officials and town health officers will be implementing this campaign on the ground and there will be a high level of monitoring by EOC and partner staff.
Parents are encouraged to take their children to the nearest fixed or outreach site or government health facility to get their children immunised for free against polio and other childhood diseases.