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‘All Karachi, Hyderabad vaccination centres fully functional now’

By Our Correspondent
July 04, 2020

Despite the COVID-19 scare and healthcare workers testing positive for the novel coronavirus, all the vaccination centres of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in Karachi and Hyderabad are a hundred per cent functional.

A Unicef-supported third-party monitoring and evaluation organisation, the Tameer-e-Khalaq Foundation (TKF), told this to Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho during a quarterly EPI review meeting on Thursday. The TKF also told the minister that vaccinators are available to vaccinate children against 10 vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Despite the pandemic and the scare among parents as well as vaccinators, EPI services have not been suspended in the province,” said EPI Programme Director Dr Akram Sultan. “The programme had slowed down in Sindh during the first two months, but EPI centres have started to reopen, and now in two divisions, all the vaccination centres are functional.”

Dr Azra reviewed the progress of the EPI in the previous quarter, focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on the EPI and routine immunisation. She was informed that EPI services have not been suspended during the spread of the novel coronavirus as per her instructions.

However, she was told, the programme had slowed down in Sindh during the first two months, even after the centres remained open all over the province, due to the people fearing the virus and the vaccinators testing positive for COVID-19.

The minister said the data indicates reduced rate of vaccination across the province during April and May, stressing that even though the vaccination rate has increased in the past month, it is still not up to the mark because people are scared of visiting the facilities, so the situation needs to be improved.

She ordered Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator Fayyaz Abbasi and Dr Sultan to resolve the issues related to vaccinators in Sindh. She also directed the district health officers that no negligence will be tolerated when it comes to missed doses of children and defaulters, so they should make sure make of this.

Dr Sultan informed the minister that with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) support, extended outreach services were launched in all districts between June 15 and June 27, vaccinating 200,000 children under the age of two against 10 diseases.

He said that extensive monitoring is under way in every district, while all the EPI officials are visiting field sites to make sure that the programme is being run smoothly. Dr Sultan said that with the support of the Indus Health Network, the EPI now has mobile vaccination units available in high-risk union councils of Karachi.

Moreover, he added, the EPI has begun communicating with families through print and electronic media to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination and to provide information on functional centres across the province.

The meeting was also attended by the National Emergency Operations Centre’s Dr Altaf Bosan, the Rotary International’s Aziz Memon, the Pakistan Paediatric Association’s Dr Khalid Shafi, the district EPI focal persons, and technical officers from the WHO; Unicef; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; John Snow, Inc.; the Interactive Research & Development, the TKF, Acasus and other technical partners.