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February 9, 2020

Paying the price of immunity gap: polio cases rise to 12

Islamabad

February 9, 2020

Islamabad : Suboptimal routine immunization and pause of campaigns in 2019 after the April drama in Peshawar has created a huge immunity gap among children, resulting in polio cases continuously being reported even in 2020. With the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for Polio Eradication confirming another four cases—two from Lakki Marwat and one each from Badin and Kambar on Saturday—the national count for 2020 now stands at 12.

The latest victims of the crippling disease are an 18 month-old boy and a 9 month-old girl from tehsils Bettani and Serae Naurang in Khyber Pahtunkhwa’s district Lakki Marwat. Both these children have not had a single routine immunization dose. The other two cases are a 36 month-old girl from district Badin, and a 42 month-old girl from tehsil Miro Khan in Sindh’s district Kambar.

“Our fight back has just started, with a successful door-to-door National Immunization Campaign in December, with the next campaign scheduled in Karachi from February 10 and the rest of Pakistan from February 17. This will be followed-up by another NID in April. Additionally, the polio programme had planned two strategic response rounds in high-risk districts; one of these rounds was conducted in January while the second is scheduled in March,” an NEOC official stated.

Efforts from December 2019 to April 2020 are expected to plug the immunity gap and significantly reduce virus transmission intensity to the 2017-18 level. “The risk is currently very real; the National EOC urges all parents to vaccinate their children in routine as well as during special door-to-door campaigns to protect their children from lifelong paralysis. I request parents to move a step forward to vaccinate all kids around their own children as well,” NEOC’s National Coordinator Dr. Rana Safdar said while talking to this scribe.

The presence of under-immunized children in clusters provides the virus with the opportunity to keep on replicating and infecting other areas around. Every Pakistani must now take it as their national responsibility to cleanse Pakistan of the virus once and for all.