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‘Polio progress remarkable but fragile’

February 16, 2022

Islamabad : With poliovirus transmission at a historic low in polio-endemic Pakistan, which marked a major milestone on January 27 with no wild polio case reported in the last 12 months, the Regional Subcommittee on Polio Eradication and Outbreaks has called for further amplification of efforts to achieve complete eradication of the crippling disease.

The subcommittee, which convened its fourth meeting on February 9 under the leadership of WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, recognised Pakistan’s historic progress against polio in the presence of health ministers or their representatives from Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The subcommittee declared the ongoing circulation of any strain of poliovirus in the Region to be a “regional public health emergency” and called on all authorities to enable uninterrupted access to the youngest and most vulnerable children through the resumption of house-to-house vaccination campaigns. It issued statements on wild poliovirus circulation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and on the circulation of vaccine-derived poliovirus strains in Yemen, where limits on house-to-house vaccination are preventing access to the most vulnerable children.

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, the PM’s Special Assistant on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan assured members that Pakistan’s polio programme is “leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of zero polio transmission.” He shared that the country is further intensifying operations in high-risk districts and core reservoirs, closely monitoring cross-border transmission in coordination with Afghanistan, and is taking timely measures to respond to any outbreak in case of further detection of poliovirus. “The government remains committed to eradicating polio virus as soon as possible,” he reiterated.

“Wild poliovirus transmission is at a historic low in the endemic countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The progress is remarkable, but it is fragile. The opportunity to end polio is knocking at our door, and we must seize it,” said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari.

Currently, poliovirus transmission in Pakistan is the lowest it has ever been, although wild poliovirus remains in the environment, drawing attention to the possible threat of resurgence in cases.

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