Tuesday July 16, 2024

Separate security force for polio workers on the cards

By M. Waqar Bhatti
May 24, 2022

The establishment of a separate force to provide security to polio vaccinators in Sindh is on the cards, while social mobilisers are being hired to persuade people in regional languages to vaccinate their children, provincial government officials Monday said while inaugurating a polio vaccination drive in Karachi.

Over 10 million children under the age of 5 will be given oral polio vaccine (OPV) drops during the campaign. Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho, along with Chief Secretary Dr Sohail Rajput, inaugurated the drive by giving OPV drops to a child at a dispensary in high-risk union council of Sohrab Goth.

Dr Pechuho said around 9.9 million children under the age of five years of age, including over 2.4 million in Karachi, will be given oral polio and Vitamin-A drops in all 30 districts of Sindh. Urging people to get their children OVP drops every time vaccinators knocked on their doors, she said, social mobilisers would be hired to persuade people in their own languages to give polio vaccine drops to their children as they protect them and others from permanently disability.

Responding to queries, the minister said steps were being taken to control the outbreak of diarrhoea in the province, and efforts were underway to keep an eye on the Monkey Pox virus, which had now spread to 11 countries of the world.

Chief Secretary Dr Sohail Rajput said that around 5,000 security personnel, including police and Rangers, had been deployed to provide security to the polio workers, and the establishment of a separate security force was on the card for the security of polio vaccine drives.

Officials at the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Sindh said back-to-back monthly polio campaigns since August 2020 had helped controlled the spread of the virus throughout 2021. The added that due to these campaigns, Sindh had not reported a single case of polio since July 2020 and environment samples were also negative, which was good for the programme and the future of the children of Pakistan.

“If we continue with the same momentum, we will further see significant results, but we must not get complacent and continue the hard work. We understand that communities in the super high-risk UCs for polio need other services and we are addressing this through new initiatives,” EOC Sindh Coordinator Fayyaz Abbasi said.

He maintained that with the three new cases reported in Waziristan, their teams were being extra vigilant, and it was extremely crucial for them to reach their vaccination targets in order to make sure that the virus did not enter Sindh, for which the polio teams had been deployed at all transit sites of the province to ensure that all children up to the age of 5, travelling to and from the province, were given oral polio drops.

“We must focus on childhood immunisation to prevent childhood diseases; the benefits of vaccination are clear as frequent campaigns have significantly reduced the burden of polio across the country.”

Children can be saved from childhood diseases like polio through vaccination and we seek the media’s help to raise awareness regarding this.

Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world, along with Afghanistan, and has so far reported three polio cases in 2022 after a hiatus of 15 months. The Pakistan Paediatric Association, Pakistan Medical Islamic Medical Association, medical experts across the world, as well as prominent religious scholars in Pakistan and across the region, endorse the oral polio vaccine as the safest and most effective for not only preventing polio but also eradicating it from the environment. Polio vaccine is the safest and most effective way to save children from disease.