ISLAMABAD: The authorities on Monday began an anti-polio drive to vaccinate nearly 30 million children in 128 districts across the country as part of a campaign that ends on November 1.
Some 210,000 frontline workers will participate in the door-to-door initiative to immunise children below five years of age, a statement released by Pakistan Polio Eradication Program (PPEP) said on Monday.
According to the statement, during smaller campaigns launched in July and August, frontline workers had been trained in anti-coronavirus precautionary measures, such as proper use of face masks, regular hand washing, and maintaining a safe social distance during the door-to-door visits.
“Polio workers have been trained in COVID-19 protocols […] and the anti-polio campaign would be utilized to raise awareness about preventive measures against coronavirus as well,” it said.
All polio activities in Pakistan came to a halt when the World Health Organisation (WHO) decided in late March that they should be suspended to avoid placing communities and frontline workers at the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Pakistan resumed its anti-polio drive on July 20, after a four-month break and in smaller numbers, with the campaign used to raise awareness about the coronavirus disease as well.
According to the WHO, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where polio continues to be a threat, with Pakistan reporting 79 new cases since January this year.
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus, mainly affecting children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease.
“Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free,” the PPEP statement said.