Nation-wide polio campaign aiming to immunise 40 million children commences today

A countrywide polio campaign aiming to inoculate 40 million children will begin in Pakistan today (Monday) and go on till September 25 (Friday).

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According to a statement issued by the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, this is the first nationwide immunisation drive in the country since February after a four-month suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The September nationwide polio campaign coincides with the recent news of Africa being certified as polio-free. With this development, Pakistan and Afghanistan are now the only remaining strongholds of the virus in the world,” the statement said.

As many as 73 polio cases have been reported in the country so far this year as compared to 147 cases in 2019 and 12 in 2018. Provincial data for the current year shows that 22 cases each have been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, 20 from Balochistan and nine from Punjab.

Taking to Twitter, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan urged parents and caregivers to cooperate with polio teams in an effort to rid the country of the debilitating disease.

“With the news of Africa being certified as polio-free, we are also ramping up our efforts to bring us closer to a polio-free Pakistan. We are consistently reviewing our campaign performance and responding to the needs of the communities we interact with in order to improve our outreach and capacity,” he said in a statement carried by the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme.

“Moreover, we are integrating and synergising systems and services across our polio and immunisation programmes to accrue benefits from their respective assets and opportunities and ultimately strengthen the routine immunisation of children,” he added.

Dr Rana Safdar, the coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, also urged parents with children under the age of five to ensure they are vaccinated.

“This is an opportune moment for parents to make sure that their children are vaccinated against polio. We have made sure that all safety measures for Covid-19 are in place to protect children, their parents and caregivers as well as our vaccinators. The safety and health of our people will always come first,” he said.

Earlier in July and August, smaller case response campaigns were conducted to vaccinate children in high risk districts across the country. The scope of the current campaign is much larger and seeks to vaccinate all children under the age of five through door-to-door visits by teams comprising of almost 270,000 vaccinators.

As with the previous campaigns, polio workers have continued to receive comprehensive training on how to vaccinate children safely within the Covid-19 context. This includes thorough prevention measures, such as hand washing, proper use of face masks and keeping a safe distance from people during visits.

Moreover, the programme has put strict measures in place for all staff following the government’s guidelines on Covid-19 preventative measures.

To mitigate the risks associated with the widespread presence of the virus, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme is planning to conduct back-to-back national vaccination campaigns in the remaining months of the year.

Children will also continue to receive routine immunisation services at fixed health centres across the country.

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