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March 15, 2020

13 new polio cases reported in a single day in KP

Top Story

March 15, 2020

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday reported 13 new polio cases, the largest the province has ever seen in a day. These cases are mostly called circulating vaccine derived poliovirus (cVDP2) or Type 2 polio.

According to health department officials and Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) in Peshawar, seven polio cases were reported from Khyber tribal district. They added that one case each was reported from Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Mardan, Nowshera, Bajaur and Lower Dir.Pakistan has this year reported 25 cVDP2 cases, in which Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone had a share of 24.

“The reason of cVDPV2 outbreak is the result of cohort of children without mucosal immunity to type 2 polio virus. The cVDPVs occurs when supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs)/polio rounds are poorly conducted and the population is left susceptible to polio virus whether from vaccine derived or wild polio virus,” opined a senior public health specialist who has served with national and international organisations on health issues. “In other words, they were leaving a cohort continuously immunised in every round and not reaching every child,” he said while requesting anonymity.

He said a number of senior Pakistani public health specialists had been raising genuine issues in the polio programme but, “they are either sidelined or kicked out of the programme. ”“It is a money driven programme and huge salaries and incentives are being taken by the consultants at the top level. Unfortunately, some people in the programme are very influential and answerable to none and they set their agenda ignoring local needs and requirements,” he maintained.

Another senior official said that after years of work in the polio programme, he had realised that eliminating polio was not the priority of those drawing huge salaries in Pakistan.In 2019, Pakistan had reported 22 cases of cVDPV2, including 16 from KP.These are apart from WPV cases in 2020, its 29 in the country and 15 in KP.There are three wild types of poliovirus (WPV) – type 1, type 2, and type 3.These new viruses are called vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPV) and can cause polio disease.After wild poliovirus type 2 was declared eradicated in 2015, the world switched from trivalent to bivalent OPV. Officials said that after eradication of type 2 virus or VDPV, the vaccine was stopped in April 2016 in Pakistan.It again surfaced in 2019 and affected 16 children in KP and a total of 22 in Pakistan.

The experts said type 2 does not cause paralysis.They felt the federal government would need to own the polio programme and introduce drastic changes in national and provincial level by bringing it under the provincial governments if it wanted to make Pakistan polio free.The experts said the big rise in polio cases has put a question mark because despite repeated campaigns poliovirus is yet to be eliminated in KP.They said the government would have to introduce the culture of merit and accountability in the programme.

“People with their strong political back up are holding key positions for years and getting thousands of dollars’ salaries. They must be held accountable for their failure in eliminating polio in the country and particularly in KP,” one of the experts argued.