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December 1, 2020

Minister opens weeklong polio vaccination drive

Karachi

December 1, 2020

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho inaugurated a seven-day polio vaccination drive in Karachi by administering oral polio vaccine (OPV) drops to children, and urged parents to get their children of upto five years of age vaccinated against the crippling disease.

Accompanied by Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Sindh Coordinator Fayyaz Abbasi, Project Director EPI Sindh Dr Akram Sultan and other officials, she said all precautionary measures were being adopted by the vaccinators to protect children, their parents and themselves from Covid-19, but the pandemic could not stop them from vaccinating children to save them from vaccine-preventable diseases.

More than nine million children are to be administered OPV drops in the 29 districts of Sindh during the drive that would continue till December 6, during which over two million children would also be given polio drops in Karachi, Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) officials said had on Saturday.

“The Emergency Operation Centre for polio in Sindh has launched the province-wide polio campaign as part of the national immunisation days. Polio drops will be given to approximately nine million children under five years of age across the 29 districts of the province. Out of these more than two million children reside in Karachi,” said the health minister.

The campaign will be conducted whilst following strict WHO-recommended Covid-19 prevention protocols, which include the wearing of masks by workers, their temperatures being checked before deployment, not handling children directly, not entering houses, spending limited time with families, knocking on doors with pens, rulers or elbows rather than hands while reducing the length of meetings and attendance in meetings.

She maintained that as a result of the pandemic, the gap in polio campaigns from March to July 2020 as well as routine immunisation had left an immunity gap in children, which was being addressed through back-to- back monthly polio campaigns since August.

“If we continue with the same momentum, we will soon see significant results. While we deal with the pandemic, we must also deal with childhood immunisation to prevent childhood diseases,” Dr Pechuho said, adding that children could be saved from childhood diseases like polio through vaccination, and the media should help raise awareness.

Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with Afghanistan and has so far reported 81 polio cases in 2020, out of which 22 cases are from Sindh.

The Pakistan Pediatric Association, medical experts across the world and major religious scholars across Pakistan and the region endorse the oral polio vaccine, which is the safest and most effective for not only preventing polio but also eradicating it from the environment. 10 billion doses of this vaccine have been given to 3 billion children across the world in the last decade as a result of which 10 million polio cases have been avoided.

PIMA’s plea

The Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) has offered its complete support to the authorities for the polio vaccination drive, and urged the parents to get their children vaccinated, saying athese drops can protect their children from the crippling disease.

In a statement issued on Monday, PIMA Karachi President Muhammad Azeemuddin said polio is a very serious disease which can cause permanent disability among children, but, fortunately, it can be prevented with the help of polio vaccine drops. He urged parents to get their children vaccinated when polio workers knocked on their doors.