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Sunday July 14, 2024

Polio cripples two children in as many days

This is second polio case in Pakistan as a day earlier as a 30-months old male child was crippled by poliovirus in Dera Bugti one day earlier

By M Waqar Bhatti
March 16, 2024
A health worker administers polio drops to a child at a railway station during a polio vaccination campaign in Lahore. — AFP/File
A health worker administers polio drops to a child at a railway station during a polio vaccination campaign in Lahore. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Polio eradication efforts in Pakistan suffered another setback on Friday when authorities reported a 52-month-old child was paralyzed by Wild Poliovirus 1 (WPV1) in the Chaman district of Balochistan.

It is the second polio case in Pakistan as a day earlier, polio eradication authorities had confirmed that a 30-months old male child was crippled by poliovirus in Dera Bugti.

Polio eradication initiative officials blamed ‘virus importation from Afghanistan’ and ‘refusals by the parents’ for the paralysis of two more children and the detection of poliovirus in the sewage across Pakistan, urging parents to get their children vaccinated against polio. “Virus importation from Afghanistan affects few children who don’t take vaccination. Media should encourage people to get their children vaccinated”, Shahzad Baig, National Coordinator for the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) for polio eradication told The News, claiming that Pakistan’s polio programme was “doing great”.

But the Government of Pakistan and the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C) were ‘extremely perturbed’ with the performance of the polio eradication initiative and vowed to raise the matter with the partner organizations for a complete overhaul of the programme. “The Government of Pakistan has no operational control over the polio eradication efforts although vaccine is procured with the government funds while entire government machinery is utilized for the vaccination drives. The polio programme officials are not accountable to the government but everybody blames the government for the failure”, an official said.

According to the Regional Reference Lab for Polio Eradication based at the National Institute of Health, WPV1 was isolated from the stool samples of a 52-month-old child from Chaman tehsil of the district. The child had onset of paralysis on February 29 and the isolated virus belongs to the imported YB3A cluster, which has been detected in 10 positive samples reported from Chaman since October 2023.

This is the second polio case reported from Pakistan in 2024 and the first case from Chaman in almost four years. The first case of 2024 was reported from Dera Bugti on March 14. Authorities said poliovirus is in the communities and continues to remain a persistent threat to children across the country since it has been detected in 56 environmental samples of more than 25 districts so far this year and in more than 100 sewage samples last year. The virus particularly attacks children who are malnourished and have weak immunity because of being under-vaccinated or not vaccinated for polio and other childhood diseases. These children are unable to fight off a polio infection and the virus can paralyze them for life.

“The Pakistan Polio programme urges parents and caregivers, religious leaders, teachers, community elders and all sections of society to play their role in countering this terrible disease and ensure that all children under five years of age around them are vaccinated multiple times against polio”, a statement by the polio programme said.

The Polio programme has conducted two nationwide polio vaccination drives since the beginning of 2024 to vaccinate more than 45 million children and boost their immunity. As a case response, a polio drive will begin in all districts of virus detection from March 25 to vaccinate more than 6 million children.