LAHORE: A polio vaccination campaign to immunize more than 21.54 million children under the age of five started as the Sub-National Immunization Days (SNIDs) commenced in 13 districts of Punjab province.
The five-day vaccination campaign will continue in two phases due to the concurring activities of the seventh national census. In the first phase, over 17.41 million children under the age of five in the Punjab districts and 16 districts of Sindh and Islamabad will be vaccinated from March 13 to March 17.
The second phase will be held from April 03 to 07 to vaccinate more than 4.12 million children in 12 districts of Balochistan and 26 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel urged parents and caregivers to ensure that their children receive the life-saving polio vaccine so that they remain protected from poliovirus.
Currently, the campaign is being held in Bahawalpur, Bhakkar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Layyah, Mianwali, Multan, Rajanpur, Rawalpindi, Rahim Yar Khan, Sheikhupura and Sialkot. In Rawalpindi campaign is being held in selected union councils. While in rest of the districts, the campaign will be held in full district.
Abdul Qadir Patel asks parents and caregivers to vaccinate children under five-year-age in this and every campaign
The health minister said that the presence of ‘wild polio’ in the environment shows that the virus was circulating in communities and posing a ‘serious risk’ to the children. With fasting month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr around the corner, population movements can increase the ‘risk’ of further spread. Therefore, it is critical that caregivers vaccinate their children in this and every campaign,” he said.
The campaign will continue in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad for seven days. In other districts, the drive will last five days. Over 90,000 polio workers are participating in the campaign to immunize more than 11.35 million children against polio. This includes: 7452 area in-charges, 1783 union council medical officers, 37804 mobile polio team members, 2401 fixed team members and 1399 transit team members.
National Emergency Operations Center Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig said that they have specifically designed March campaign to reach areas where population movement was not just frequent but also expected during Ramadan and Eid festivals. “It is essential that we reach as many children as possible with the vaccine now to curb polio transmission,” he said.
Punjab’s the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has deployed stakeholders from all areas to facilitate implementation of the polio campaign in priority areas. Emergency Centre’s Coordinator Khizer Afzaal, who is also head of the polio program, paid a surprise visit to Rawalpindi to review polio campaign arrangements and meet the team members.
Dr Shahzad Baig says March campaign specifically designed to reach areas where population movement is frequent
He also visited a hospital in Taxila, checked vaccines stored in the store and met with a team. He also met with a polio team deployed at a transit site on the bypass. In Pakistan, no human case has been reported since September 2022 when a polio outbreak paralyzed 20 children – all of them in southern districts of Pakhtunkhwa.
It is pertinent to mention here that the ‘wild poliovirus’ was detected for the first time during this January in sewage samples collected from two separate sites in Lahore. The officials confirmed that the two more samples have since then tested positive for polio – ‘wild polio’ has been detected in a sample collected from Dera Ismail Khan and variant poliovirus has been detected from Ghotki.
Khizer Afzaal appreciated the dedication of polio teams and urged them to continue the hard work to ensure that no child remain unvaccinated. After the hospital, he travelled to a nomadic site and checked status of vaccination among the community children. During his visit, he also administered drops to vaccinate children. He urged polio team to improve quality of door marking.