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October 24, 2020

‘If we can do it with the Corona pandemic, we can definitely do it with polio’

Karachi

October 24, 2020

EOC Coordinator, Punjab

“Punjab is the largest province, h o u s i n g more than 50 percent population of the country in its 36 districts. For the last many years Punjab’s performance in polio eradication has been appreciated at all national and international fora. Punjab’s biggest achievement has been a close synergy with EPI Programme, resulting in a winwin situation for both the programmes by protecting children from vaccine preventable diseases,” said Sundas Irshad, EOC Coordinator Punjab, in an exclusive interview to The News. As with other programs, she says, “Punjab is currently facing two-pronged challenge in Polio. So far 12 WPV human cases and 14 cvdpv2 human cases have been notified in Punjab.Moreover, 63 percent environmental samples are positive for WPV and 9 percent are positive for cvdpv2. The most worrying fact is that Lahore has remained continuously positive forWPV since last two years.” She says that due to heavy influx of high risk and mobile population from other provinces into the province, it becomes difficult to trace, register and vaccinate the eligible children for polio and EPI from these populations. Secondly, a high number of children are not found at their homes or schools when the vaccination teams visit their houses during a campaign.Most of the times these children travel out of district or province and remain uncovered even during the catch-up days. This impacts the coverage of OPV in the province and leaves a big chunk of children unvaccinated. Thirdly, Southern Punjab districts, that form part of Central Pakistan, have bordering areas with Sindh and Balochistan. There are secluded villages and population groups that move through informal routes and settle there. There is always a risk that these populations will be missed for vaccination. Fourthly, some population segments, especially Pashto-speaking population groups resist vaccination and cause refusals during the campaigns in some parts of the province,” she explained. Keeping these challenges in mind, the Punjab province has taken various initiatives: “Tracking, registration and updating of the HRMP entering Punjab; vaccination at the point of entry, i.e., PTPs have been established at intra-provincial borders, that are operational 24 hours a day; Involvement and engagement of influencers from these communities to disseminate pro-vaccination messages; Though an App, complete data of missed children is recorded digitally during the campaign days and follow ups are done; same day coverage during the campaign days is being ensured to cover themaximumnumber of NA children. Asmany as 3613 dedicated polio workers are ensuring quality of the campaign,” she informed. “Two detailed meetings have been held with Sindh and Bolochistan teams and Southern Punjab districts to locate areas and villages on inter-provincial borders and ensure their coverage during the campaigns,” she explained while adding, “to cover the refusal children belonging to Pashtun populations and to dissolve their resistance to OPV, focused and specific communication strategy is being implemented in these areas. Stating her personal commitment to the n a t i o n a l cause, she say: “I firmly believe that we can turn around the current situation with more hard work, dedication and commitment. After a long pause due to COVID-19, we are now organising good quality campaigns every month, with which we will be able to turn the tide. If we can do it with the Corona pandemic, we can definitely do it with Polio,” she concluded.