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Polio

40M children to be vaccinated in nationwide anti-polio campaign

ISLAMABAD: Over 40 million children under five years of age will be vaccinated with the polio vaccine, along with a supplementary dose of Vitamin-A capsule during the nationwide campaign.

The third nationwide polio campaign for 2021 will kick off in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on September 17 and on September 20, for the rest of the country.

More than 290,000 Sehat Tahafuz frontline workers will go house to house for vaccination to protect children from lifelong paralysis caused by the polio virus.

Research shows approximately 50% of all children are vitamin-A deficient in Pakistan, so a supplementary dose of Vitamin A will be included providing protection against various infections and diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, and night blindness.

“The programme has made significant gains with not a single case being reported for seven months, giving us a unique opportunity to achieve polio eradication. Now is the time to re-double our efforts and ensure to each every eligible child with the polio vaccine to solidify this progress.

“Parents should open their door to frontline workers and vaccinate their children to make way for a polio-free Pakistan,” Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services, Dr Faisal Sultan said while addressing the Polio immunization drive’s launching ceremony.

He said, “As an indication of how high a priority polio eradication is, the Prime Minister recently met with the District Commissioners of 21 highest risk Districts and directed them to personally double their efforts to eradicate polio, and we expect to see the results of that meeting in this upcoming campaign.”

He said Pakistan remains one of only two countries in the world with circulating wild polio virus, together with Afghanistan. Wild polio virus has been eradicated in all other countries, attesting to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

“The upcoming campaign is vital for the programme and Pakistan’s ability to achieve polio eradication,” said Dr. Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative.

He said, “We are currently going into the high transmission season during which the virus is especially active and need to ensure protection of all our children with the vaccine. It is essential to vaccinate every child in the upcoming campaign, especially the newborns and infants.”

“We must emphasize that caregivers prioritize routine immunisation of children and visit health facilities as per the schedule. Our aim is to immunize all children against vaccine-preventable diseases to protect them from life-threatening diseases,” he added.

He said that Pakistan has made substantial progress towards polio eradication, with only one wild polio virus case reported in 2021 compared to 75 cases at the same time last year. The significant reduction in cases is supported by a decrease in positive environmental samples from 55% to 12%, highlighting that polio virus is less active in the country.

He said that this is one of the lowest levels of detected wild polio virus in the history of the country. It is vital that this opportunity to finally eradicate polio from Pakistan is seized. “We must not be complacent and now is the time to further intensify our national effort to dive polio out of Pakistan once and for all.”

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M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.