Pakistan’s polio eradication efforts have suffered another setback after the authorities confirmed on Tuesday that two new cases of the crippling disease were reported from separate districts of Sindh.
No such cases were previously reported from these districts, and the officials admitted that both the girls afflicted with the virus had been administered several doses of the oral polio vaccine.
“Two new cases of polio have been confirmed from Sajawal and Badin this month, which is a bit disappointing for us after so much efforts and hard work,” Fayaz Jatoi, coordinator for the Sindh Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), told The News.
EOC officials said Sakina Salman, an 18-month-old girl from Sajawal, had onset of polio on November 3 and both her legs were affected.
“She had received one polio dose during routine and six extra doses during the campaign,” said Jatoi.
Alam Khatoon, an 11-month-old girl from Badin, was reported to be afflicted with polio on Monday, he added.
Officials said the latest victim had been administered three doses of the vaccine during routine and five during special campaigns. Both of her legs have been paralysed, they added.
Following these two cases, this year’s total cases across the province have risen to eight, with one case from Karachi, while the total cases across the country have increased
Officials had claimed achieving great success in curbing the polio virus in Pakistan early this year, but back to back cases – first in September from Sajawal and two more this month from the coastal belt of Sindh – have caused a serious setback to these efforts.
A country can only be declared free of polio virus if no case of the crippling disease is reported from that state for three consecutive years.
If Pakistan wishes to claim itself free of polio, no case should emerge from January 2017 to December 2019.
The EOC coordinator said the affected children were immunised, but when polio eradication is near and the virus has few places to survive, it travels to areas with lower risk and attacks children with low immunity, despite the vaccination.
EOC National Coordinator Rana Safdar termed the emergence of two more polio cases as “unfortunate” and blamed it on “poor routine immunisation” in Sindh, saying both the children had been administered several doses of the vaccine during special campaigns, but they failed to get routine doses, which compromised their immunity against the virus.
“Polio virus is fighting for its survival after it was eliminated from its reservoirs in Karachi, northern Sindh and Quetta block. It is now targeting children with weak immunity in other areas and its behaviour indicates that it is near extinction in the country.”
Special case response
In response to the latest polio cases, the Sindh EOC said an oral polio vaccination campaign would be conducted in 25 districts of Sindh from November 23 to 26 with a target of 6.1 million under-fives.
This includes a case response drive that would be conducted in Sajawal, Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan and Thatta districts.
The campaign in 99 union councils of Karachi with a target of 1.5 million children will take place from November 28 to December 4, said Sindh EOC officials.
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