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July 20, 2020

260,000 children to be given polio vaccine in drive beginning today

Karachi

July 20, 2020

As many as 260,000 children under the age of five years would be vaccinated during a small-scale polio vaccination campaign in selected areas of Karachi, including Baldia, Orangi, North Nazimabad, Liaquatabad and SITE towns from Monday (today), said officials of the Poli Eradication Initiative (PEI) on Sunday.

This is the first small-scale campaign since the COVID pandemic hit Pakistan in March 2020, they said, adding that wider-scale campaigns would be conducted every month in Sindh before the end of this year.

“These campaigns are of great importance as due to the COVID-19 pandemic the mass polio campaigns were stopped from March 2020. We must offer oral polio drops to every child under five years to save them from this crippling disease and ensure their healthy and productive life. It is necessary to vaccinate every child to fill the immunity gap among children.”

Urging parents to vaccinate their children against vaccine-preventable diseases including polio, an official of the Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) highlighted that in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the parents must not fear as the government had taken all necessary precautionary measures as per the protocols of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the safety of children.

“Sanitizers, masks and gloves have been provided to all polio workers. They will work according to the set SOPs, such as they will not directly handle any child, interact closely with the parents and spend minimal time at the doorstep.”

In order to fill the gap in the polio campaigns, the PPA Sindh has requested all parents to cooperate with polio teams and offer two drops of the polio vaccine to the children under five years of age every time they are offered.

“The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk of COVID-19 and the Government of Sindh is committed to providing these life-saving vaccines to the children of the province. The door to door campaigns will also be utilised to raise awareness on COVID-19 prevention as well as for referring mothers and children for other essential vaccinations and antenatal care services.”

According to the authorities, Sindh will conduct back-to-back campaigns from December 2019 to March 2020 to put the polio programme back on the track. However, since the outbreak of COVID-19, no campaigns could be conducted, leaving an immunity gap which needs to be filled.

“To prevent childhood vaccine-preventable diseases, we must boost essential routine immunisation coverage. Children can be saved from 11 vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio, through vaccination. We recognise the pivotal role of media houses for raising awareness among masses.”

The PPA, the medical experts and the religious scholars endorse the oral polio vaccine as the safest and most effective tool for eradication of polio from this region. Around 10 billion doses of this vaccine have been offered to three billion children across the globe in the last decade and as a result, 10 million possible polio cases have been prevented.

However, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only polio-endemic countries world over where polio is still circulating. In the year 2020, Pakistan has so far reported 58 confirmed polio cases out of which 20 cases are from Sindh.