Pakistan’s efforts to stamp out polio faced another serious blow on Thursday after Polio Eradication Initiative officials in Sindh announced the province’s first and the country’s sixth case of the crippling disease: a three-year-old girl from Singho Lane in Karachi’s Lyari Town.
“With great regret we announce the first polio case of Sindh in 2019, as a 36-month-old female child has tested positive for the virus in UC-9 Lyari Town (Karachi),” confirmed Sindh Health Director General Dr Masood Solangi.
He said that the girl had been administered multiple doses of the oral polio vaccine (OPV), because of which she had been saved from complete paralysis.
Although the child, who was identified as Safia, escaped paralysis due to her several doses of OPV during national and provincial vaccination campaigns, she would still be considered a polio-affected child, officials said.
So far this year one child each from Sindh and Punjab and four others from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have tested positive for polio, added the officials.
Dr Solangi said Safia had a history of illness and suffered from malnourishment due to which her immunity was quite low and she had developed weakness in her limbs. “However, the child will not suffer from paralysis, as she was vaccinated with OPV on multiple occasions and has fully recovered.”
Confirming the polio case from Lyari, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar bin Atta said that the environmental samples from different areas of Karachi have been testing positive for the polio virus for the past few years, and unless it is eliminated from the country’s sewage, the dream to eradicate the disease cannot be realised.
“We would have to eradicate this virus from our environment to claim the status of polio-free nation,” said Atta, adding that last year 12 polio cases were reported from the entire country, including one from Karachi’s Gadap Town.
Emphasising the importance of repeated vaccination, Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication Sindh Coordinator Umar Farooq Bullo said that one must recognise the importance of vaccination, as the girl escaped paralysis despite being attacked by the polio virus.
“This case shows that the OPV works, otherwise the girl would have had to suffer a lifetime of disability. This is also a message for families that by refusing to get their children vaccinated, they are not only putting their own kids in danger but also the children of others.”
Promising to respond back strongly, Bullo said that a campaign has been planned to start in the city on March 25, and urged parents to get their children vaccinated as many times as vaccinators knock on their doors.
“Despite major improvements in the programme and a decline in cases, we cannot rest and must ensure that no child suffers from a vaccine-preventable disease. Parents must also take responsibility and comply with the recommendations of health experts and cooperate with the polio teams.”