Wednesday January 19, 2022

All set for fourth polio vaccination drive

December 09, 2021

Islamabad : A three-day National Immunization Drive targeting over 40 million children under five years of age in 156 districts, will begin on December 10 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and in other parts of the country on December 13. Aside from polio vaccine and a supplementary dose of Vitamin A capsules, the polio programme will also facilitate COVID-19 vaccination in collaboration with the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) and the National Command Operations Center (NCOC).

Children from 12-18 years of age will receive Pfizer, while Sino-Vac will be administered to the 18 plus population in 31 high-risk districts identified by NCOC. Both vaccines have already been approved by NCOC and the Health Expert Committee.

“The current gains demand substantial and sustained efforts to further boost progress achieved over the years towards polio eradication. The programme will reach every eligible child with polio vaccine to solidify this progress. Parents should open their doors to polio workers and vaccinate their children to ensure their safety," said Dr. Faisal Sultan, Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Health, on the launch of the campaign.

Dr. Sultan added “After protecting their precious children under 5 from polio, parents and all children over 12 years should then go to one of the more than 13,000 temporary vaccine sites for vaccination and protection against COVID-19.”

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries left with poliovirus. Unvaccinated children on both sides of the border are at imminent risk. Among other health issues, more than 50% of children in Pakistan are Vitamin-A deficient, which exposes them to various other diseases, including diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles, and night blindness. Adding the dose of Vitamin-A in the immunisation campaign contributes to improving the immunity of these vulnerable children.

“We are aware of the risks of cross-border circulation of the virus between Pakistan and Afghanistan and we are now focused more on further strengthening our robust mechanisms and strategies to address the issue,” said Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative. “The programme will ensure the upcoming immunisation campaign achieves all its targets while also taking steps to monitor cross-border movement and enhancing security for health workers in high-risk areas, as well as supporting the COVID vaccination drive,” he added.

The Polio programme has completed three high-quality national campaigns, each reaching more than 40 million children under five with lifesaving vaccines during 2021. The programme also facilitated a recently concluded measles-rubella campaign where more than 90 million children were vaccinated against measles and rubella.

The toll-free Helpline 1166 and 24/7 WhatsApp Polio Helpline 0346-777-65-46 assist parents and caregivers by providing information about vaccines and campaign information.