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January 15, 2020

Govt urged to declare polio emergency

Lahore

January 15, 2020

LAHORE: Pakistan Medical Association (Centre) has said that polio infection remains endemic despite over 100 rounds of vaccination being carried out in the past decade.

Our Polio programme has deteriorated. In 2018, polio programme seemed to be on the brink of eradicating poliovirus. During the year 2019 as many as 135 cases have been reported compared to 12 cases in 2018. The provincial data for 2019 shows that 91 polio cases have been reported from KP, 25 from Sindh, 11 from Baluchistan and eight from Punjab, it said.

PMA (Centre) Secretary General Dr SM Qaisar Sajjad said that this is very unfortunate that the International Monitoring Board (IMB) has declared the polio programme and the importance of delivering polio Vaccine as ‘Political Football’ in the country. It also observed that there is lack of political unity behind polio resurgence in the country.

Pakistan remains under a polio-linked travel restriction imposed by the World Health Organisation due to which, since 2014, every Pakistani travelling abroad has to carry a polio vaccination certificate.

We had already warned the government to pay full attention to the polio programme because due to weakening of the programme we could face more travelling restrictions and now that’s what happened. The United States has generated a Level 2 travel alert for Pakistan and other polio-endemic Asian countries following outbreak of the crippling disease, declaring the life-time booster dose for adults mandatory during the period of restrictions imposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The alert has been generated on the recommendations of US federal agency -- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- to stop spread of the virus to other states.

According to the CDC, the polio outbreaks have been reported in eight Asian countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Philippines. The World Health Organisation recommends that these countries require residents and long-term (four weeks or more) visitors show proof of polio vaccination before leaving the country.

Particularly, the WHO had extended travel restrictions on Pakistan following frequent outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) and wild polio-virus type 1 (WP1) cases.

PMA has been expressing and guiding the government to work with all stakeholders, political parties and religious leaders to eliminate polio from the country. We previously suggested the government to form a special joint committee of the parliament on polio and members from all the political parties should be included in the committee.

Now PMA suggests the government to deal with this menace on priority and declare polio emergency in the country.

PMA believes that a massive awareness campaign through print, electronic and social media should be initiated. The government will have to run a strong campaign to let people know what polio is and what its consequences are. People should be made aware of the importance of polio vaccine, they should particularly be convince that vaccine is very effective for the eradication of polio and it is absolutely not harmful in any way, remove all the misconceptions about the polio drops from the public minds.

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