ISLAMABAD: The first three-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign of 2019 is set to begin on Monday (today).
During the campaign, 260,000 frontline workers will go door to door across the country to ensure that more than 39 million children under the age of five receive two drops of vaccine, which will protect them against poliovirus.
Last year, 12 cases of wild poliovirus were reported in the country – five from the Bajaur tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three from Dukki district in Balochistan and one each from Charsadda, Lakki Marwat and Khyber in KP and Gadap, Karachi. This indicates a 97 percent decrease in the number of annual cases of polio from highs of 306 reported in 2014.
Despite this significant achievement, the cunning poliovirus has been able to find a way for its survival. During December 2018, sewage water samples collected from Karachi, Peshawar, Bannu, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Qila Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta tested positive for poliovirus. The genetic analysis reports from the Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health confirmed that the virus was able to take the road from current hotspots within the country and in Afghanistan, posing a risk for under-immunized children living elsewhere.
A total of 260,000 frontline workers will go door to door to vaccinate 39 million children
According to Prime Minister's Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Babar Bin Atta, "The government has a firm resolve to defeat poliovirus transmission in the country through the optimum utilization of this low transmission season."
According to an official statement, under the umbrella of the National Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the entire team of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Program will strive to hit the virus hard through a high-quality immunization campaign. Considering its significance, 50 experts have been deployed to facilitate preparedness and ground implementation of vaccination campaign activities by local teams in priority areas. The campaign in Pakistan has been synchronized with Afghanistan to ensure the vaccination of all children on the move as well.
"We will continue the momentum and address any remaining gaps in order to defeat the poliovirus. It's very important that parents are committed to protecting their children against the virus through repeated vaccinations every time drops are offered by our dedicated polio workers during these campaigns, "said National EOC National Coordinator Dr. Rana Mohammad Safdar.
"This is a good opportunity to stem the virus circulation and develop a child's immunity to fight against the poliovirus attacks," he said.
In Balochistan also, more than 2.5m children will be administered polio drops during the campaign.
As many as 10,356 teams would be deployed to vaccinate children, said EOC Coordinator Rashid Razzaq. Apart from 8,829 mobile teams, 951 fixed points and 576 transit points have been set up all over Balochistan to ensure that all children are administered polio drops.
"We have adopted strict security measures to prevent any unpredictable situation," the official said. Personnel of Balochistan Levies Force, Police and Frontier Corps will be deployed to protect the polio workers.
Mr Razzaq said religious scholars also took part in the campaign to persuade the parents who normally refused workers to administer polio drops to their children.
Saleem Shahid from Quetta also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2019