Tuesday April 16, 2024

Last nationwide polio vaccination campaign of 2018 begins today

By Our Correspondent
December 10, 2018

Islamabad: Closest ever to its goal of interrupting poliovirus circulation, Pakistan starts the last nationwide door-to door polio vaccination campaign of 2018 today (Monday), with over 270,000 frontline workers administering polio vaccine to 38.7 million eligible children.

Pakistan has reported 8 cases of wild poliovirus since the beginning of the year; these comprise three from Dukki district in Balochistan, one each from Charsada in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gadap, Karachi, and Khyber, and two from Bajour tribal districts in KP. These numbers indicate an overall 97 per cent annual decrease in polio cases from the highs of 306 reported in 2014.

Despite this achievement, the cunning poliovirus has been able to find a way for its survival. During November, sewage water samples collected from Karachi, Sukkur, Peshawar, Mardan, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad tested positive for poliovirus. Genetic analysis reports from the Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health further confirmed that the virus was able to take the road from current hotspots within country and in Afghanistan, posing risk to under-immunized children residing elsewhere.

According to the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta, “The battle is very much on and it is absolutely critical that parents ensure that all their children under the age of five are vaccinated during the campaigns. I would urge every Pakistani to assume the role of a ‘Sehat Muhafiz’ and ensure that no child is left unvaccinated in his own house or in the neighbourhood.”

“Low temperatures are the best time to hit the virus. The Polio Eradication Programme is committed to using upcoming campaigns as the opportunity to stop virus circulation once and for all,” stated Dr. Rana Safdar, National Coordinator for Polio eradication. The deployment of staff across critical areas of Pakistan will guarantee that each and every child is reached with the vaccine,” he added.

The National Emergency Operations Centre has emphasized that oral polio vaccine must also be administered to all children who have been vaccinated in routine as well as in previous campaigns. Every additional dose puts another circle of protection around children who might be vulnerable due to insufficient immunity, especially in areas with poor nutrition and sanitation challenges.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world that have reported wild poliovirus cases in 2018. The December campaign is synchronized in both countries in an attempt to minimize the risk of missing children on the move.